Portraits of the West by David Stoecklein

In tribute to one of the West's greatest photographers and champions.
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In tribute to one of the West's greatest photographers and champions.

We are greatly saddened to hear about the passing of Western photographer David Stoecklein. We were blessed to have many of his beautiful images grace our pages and covers. He was a true champion of the cowboy and the West, and he will be missed. In tribute to his amazing work and life, enjoy this photo essay, which ran in print in 2012. 

Best known for his Western-themed work, David Stoecklein has been a professional photographer since his 20s. But this Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-born shooter was not always horseback.

“Growing up, I always wanted to move West,” he says. “I skied in Colorado in high school and moved out here as soon as I could.” He gravitated towards ski photography and shot the sport’s best in the 1970s and ’80s. Outdoor industry catalog assignments followed, which led to ad campaigns for Jeep, Ford, Coca-Cola, and Copenhagen. A shoot for Marlboro introduced him to working cowboys, and the Western lifestyle soon became his life’s passion.

“Like all the writers, artists, poets, and songwriters who traveled West before me, I’m documenting my time,” he says. “I’m preserving and celebrating the West through my work.”

Today, Stoecklein lives in Ketchum, Idaho, where he’s run the Stoecklein Gallery for 20 years. He has a private catalog of 1 million slide images and 300,000 digital images, from which AC culled the following seven portraits. 

“I treat them with respect,” he says of the cowboys he works with. “These guys are the real deal, and it shows in the photos.” 

A father of three, Stoecklein and his wife also own the 440-acre Bar Horseshoe Ranch in Idaho’s Big Lost Mountains, where he hosts photography workshops and runs some cattle and roping steers. Stoecklein rides regularly and pitches in at brandings when his neighbors need a hand. Come fall, he packs his own horses and hunts for deer and elk. 

“It’s all about the outdoors and enjoying it all,” he says.