Juxtaposing the Mexican Vaquero (the Cowboy) with Selections from Ancient Americas & Spanish Colonial Collection will highlight the character in each. Bill Wittliff was an American screenwriter, an author, a photographer and the founder of Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. Born in Taft, Texas, Wittliff’s life story begins as a youth climbing up a tree to see if he could enjoy a concert by Elvis Presley. He quickly discovered, that he had entered “The King’s” dressing room! He and his pals were kindly given tickets by Elvis to attend the concert that evening. His life continued to be a fascinating and creatively rewarding experience. He was the screenwriter of Legends of the Fall, The Perfect Storm, and author and teleplay of Lonesome Dove. Amidst all of that he photographed the Vaqueros.
An accomplished photographer, Wittliff’s photographs documenting the life of the Mexican vaquero (taken 1969-71) have been exhibited in numerous galleries and institutions throughout this country and in Mexico, including the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and the Texas Capitol. In Japan, they represented the United States during its bicentennial year. After twenty years, the exhibit is still shown as a traveling display in the U. S. and Mexico under the auspices of the Institute of Texan Cultures.
In the early 1970s, noted Texas historian Joe Frantz offered Bill Wittliff a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—to visit a ranch in northern Mexico where the vaqueros still worked cattle in the traditional ways. Drawn to this land-out-of-time, Wittliff photographed the vaqueros as they went about daily chores that had changed little since the first Mexican cowherders learned to work cattle from a horse’s back. These images are 10 of the 90 that represent the vaquero (cowboy) in the book Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy.
On view in the Anderson Gallery