Black Cowboys Get an Overdue Spotlight Moment Thanks to a Photographer With an Uncommon Lens — See It In Round Top
Gem Hale Is a Rising Star On the National SceneBY Catherine D. Anspon // 03.14.23
Gem Hale's "What's Next For Me?," 2019
Gem Hale's "Lonesome Night in Leakey, Texas," 2019
Gem Hale's "Alabama Black Rancher," 2023
Rising photographic talent Gem Hale has already had an image featured in The New York Times. (Photo by Drew Perlmutter)
Gem Hale's "Cowboys Resting in a Field," 2020
Gem Hale's "Appalachian Trail," 2019
Currently Atlanta-based, Gem Hale is returning to Houston this spring for his Round Top debut. (Photo by Drew Perlmutter)
Gem Hale’s "See Me for What I Am," 2021
Gem Hale's "The Lonesome Ranger," 2023
Gem Hale's "Family Bonding," 2020
Word on the street is that Gem Hale will present work for a Houston arts institution soon. (Photo by Drew Perlmutter)
Gem Hale's "KJ with Retired Race Horse," 2019
Gem Hale's "Stampede," 2022
Gem Hale's "Young Cowboy on Trail Ride," 2020
A rising talent on the national photographic scene comes into focus in Round Top later this month, in advance of a soon-to-be-announced project with a major Houston arts institution. Gem Hale is a former Texan now residing in Atlanta, where he’s an in-demand photographer specializing in the music scene. Clients include Atlantic Records, Capital Records and Houston headquartered Stomp Down.
Hale’s also recently scored a coup. He was commissioned by The New York Times to record a man on the street for the newspaper’s ongoing Witness series. In this case, Hale photographed a young Black man in Memphis and his response to the brutal killing of Tyre Nichols. See Hale’s photo for The New York Times here.
But it’s a personal body of work that Hale is bringing to Round Top. The “Hay Day” series is Hale’s second Texas solo exhibition.
“I have been working on this project for the past four years on Black ranches in the American South/Southeast to explore where I came from. . . spending time on trail rides, farms and horse ranches, making connections with these people while trying to get an idea of why they are still so passionate about not just the culture but the necessity of the job,” Hale says.
Co-organized by Mathis Walker, another twentysomething in the wings, Hale’s documentary images are billed as “a celebration of Black cowboys telling the story of a narrative lost to time but alive and well in the South.” The lyrical photographs — land, animals, ranchers — are simple, direct and luminous, speaking to identity and the underknown American tradition of the Black cowboy that Hale’s lens sensitively records.
“Gem Hale: Hay Day,” will be display Friday, March 31 and April 1 from 2 to 10 pm each day at a private farm called Ledbetter. “Hale Day” is open to the public, but an RSVP is required. For more information, go here.