Jet Set to Saddle Tramp

When you meet Peter Robbins, it's easy to mistake him for the cowboys he photographs. But his career started a long way from the cowboy world.
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When you meet Peter Robbins, it's easy to mistake him for the cowboys he photographs. But his career started a long way from the cowboy world.

When you meet Peter Robbins, it’s easy to mistake him for the cowboys he photographs. For more than a dozen years, he’s assimilated himself to the Texas ranch country culture and it shows. But his career started a long way from the cowboy world.

After graduating from University of Oklahoma, he began pursuit of his high school sweetheart, Kim, (to whom he is still married). She was working as a model in Dallas and then New York. They were married and her career took them to Europe, where, despite dreaming of being a war correspondent, Robbins photographed for various metropolitan daily newspapers stateside. 

Because of Kim’s involvement in the fashion industry, Robbins was soon knee deep in fashion shoots, where he met a lead designer for Neiman Marcus.

“I traveled with Neiman Marcus for more than 10 years shooting all over the world,” Robbins says.

However, the war correspondent dream didn’t die, and in 1987 he had the chance to photograph a refugee situation developing on the Guatemala/Mexico border. Later, he worked in the Middle East during the Gulf War.

“I was in a situation of real horror and I felt like an outsider,” Robbins says. “When I went to the Middle East that settled it for me: I didn’t want to be an outsider looking in. I wanted to be an insider.”

Shortly thereafter—on assignment—he met cowboy extraordinaire Tom Moorhouse and his late wife, Becky.

“I realized right then and there that this was what I wanted,” says Robbins. “I became a quick study and they realized I was serious about wanting to learn how to ride a horse, how to work cattle, and all the little intricacies. Now, almost 14 years later, this is what I’m doing. About 10 years ago I got out of all the other work I was in. I’ve gotten to work on some of the great ranches on their spring and fall works for weeks at a time and I really feel that the guys have allowed me into their world.”

The photos in this essay are a tribute to his friend Tom Moorhouse and his last spring branding as the official manager of the Tongue River Ranch.

“It’s a special time to be out in the spring,” Robbins says. “Everything is coming alive—especially if there’s been a little rain—and everybody’s excited. There’s new opportunity for everything.”