Grit and Sunsets

Honoring the cowboy way.
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Honoring the cowboy way.

Whether he’s at a ranch in Central Wyoming, where he grew up, or a rodeo in Colorado Springs, where he’s now active duty Air Force, Benjamin Putnam can often be found with a camera in hand, even when there’s a branding iron in the other. Equally passionate about photography and cowboying, Putnam has been capturing scenes from the West for the past decade. A childhood in the ranching town of Casper, Wyo., instilled an early appreciation for the cowboy way of life. He says, “When other kids were playing sports, I was out working on our farm or other people’s ranches.”

Putnam’s photography goal is to represent the realities of cowboy life in such a way that even those unfamiliar with the culture can appreciate its varied elements.

“There’s this romanticized portrayal that’s all golden sunsets and coffee on the porch,” he explains. “There are those days, sure, but there are also the days where it’s cold, hot, wet, dry, or dusty—and you’re sick. I want to capture the incredible tenacity and drive it takes to do a job even when it’s 40 below and there’s three feet of snow. There’s sacrifice alongside the beauty, which makes it even more beautiful. That’s what I want to show people: the grit and the sunsets.”

A strong work ethic is just one of the values Putnam admires of the cowboy community. He quips, “Without cowboys and their work ethic, people wouldn’t eat. It’s what puts dinner on the plate!”

More seriously, he speaks of the Western community as one of the few holdouts where values are still honored. 

“The rest of the world lacks that sense of fellowship,” he says. “If you’re not willing to take the time out of your day to help someone else who you know would help you in turn, you’re not cowboy. Integrity, respect, hard work … The cowboy culture is one of the last places where those values are still strong.” 

Enjoy more photography by Benjamin Putnam at