By FRED R. CONRAD
Conrad/The New York TimesRebekah Tuckey, 7, and her
father, Nat, came from Biglerville, Pa.
Conrad/The New York TimesPiggyback rides are allowed at Thon
When Fred R. Conrad
was growing up in Jackson, Mich., in the 1950s, his
first heroes were the cowboys he
saw on his
family's black-and-white television.
dreamed of being the Lone Ranger, or Roy Rogers.
mother even taught him to ride on a retired cow pony named Brazos.
Alas, Mr. Conrad, 62, never achieved his goal of being a cowboy.
He did eventually become a New York Times staff photographer.
The two are often confused.
One of the best things about being a newspaper photographer is that sooner or later you get to see most everything life has to offer.
Yet somehow - despite a career of almost 36 years - Mr. Conrad
had never photographed a rodeo, not even the Professional Bull Riders'
United States tour at Madison Square Garden.
The event has been there annually for the last 20 years, and the three-day event began last Friday.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York TimesIn preparation for the bull, a ride on something a bit more manageable.
So, last week Mr. Conrad
set out to fill this void in his
professional life and explore the unlikely juxtaposition of bull riding in a metropolis where steers are scarce.
spent three days with the men who ride the bulls for eight seconds - or often less - of sheer terror.
"They're very soft-spoken and most of them are incredibly religious, which sort of makes sense if you're putting your life on the line in every event," Mr. Conrad
"Most of them are either from the American Southwest or surprisingly from Brazil, which has a long history of cowboys and bulls."
Despite the Kevlar vests they wear, most of the cowboys have been injured, and many put on knee or elbow braces in the locker room before the event.
"It's probably the most dangerous single sport that I've ever seen," Mr. Conrad
"I have no idea what keeps those hats on," Mr. Conrad
"I have no idea what keeps their heads on."
Conrad/The New York TimesRuthie Alley and her
brother, Rowdy, right, from Connecticut, watched the bulls with their father.
"Most of us are much more comfortable behind the lens," said Fred R. Conrad, a New York Times staff photographer.
"And to just sort of barge in on another photographer and tell him to pose ... you feel kind of funny.
was on assignment to do a portrait of Joel Meyerowitz, the influential color photographer whose half-century career takes up a massive two-volume book, and an exhibition.
Stokes, a freelance videographer for The New York Times
, shadowed Mr. Conrad
taking Mr. Meyerowitz's portrait in his
studio on the Upper West Side to accompany an article by Randy Kennedy.
By FRED R. CONRAD
Fred R. Conrad
The New York Times staff photographer Fred R. Conrad has shot a number of topics that have been featured on Lens, and not just congregations of costumes.
Superheroes and Santas, yes, but also marathons and more somber assignments, like his
work covering a prison hospice.