Photographer asked to delete image from Falkland Stampede - 'doesn't cast rodeo in the best light'

'Not sport's best light'

A Vernon photographer says he was surprised to be approached by organizers of the recent Falkland Stampede and asked to remove one of his images from social media.

Gary Sumner, a professional photographer and owner of Vernon's Grand House of Photography, says he's not an animal activist.

"What I see in front of me, I photograph," he told Castanet.

One of those images from the May long weekend stampede is of the calf roping competition.

It shows a calf rearing up on its hind legs while a cowboy holds a rope around its neck.

While the action may be alarming to some, it shows what Sumner called a "display of traditional cowboy skills."

Rodeo manager Melissa Seaman noted after the stampede that no animals – or cowboys – were injured during the rodeo events.

"We're just trying to keep the sport alive," she said in reaction to the exchange with Sumner.

She didn't challenge the content of the image, but said "it doesn't cast rodeo in the best light."

Seaman said she praised Sumner's photography, which he posted in the Falkland BC Facebook group, but did ask him to remove the calf roping photo.

"It's really not a great representation of the sport, and calf roping already gets a lot of backlash ... I would hate to see it get cancelled," she wrote.

Sumner says he asked fellow photo club members what they thought of the image, which prompted discussion of the "moral, emotional and journalistic sides" of documenting such events.

He said the modern-day public is "distanced from our rural past" and so may "find the sport brutal."

"One out of 70 images was a controversial one," he said.

"When does the court of public opinion dictate that we have change?" he asked. "Do we begin censoring the way we can see and do things?"

Sumner did not remove the photo.

He notes that hundreds of people in the stands would have witnessed the moment, including families and children.

"If the public families, children and grandparents are all paying to see and watch these spectacles of cowboys in a sport do their thing, then what is a video or a captured image posted in the eye of the public?"

Seaman said Falkland has "not had a big problem" with activists, but that she would like to keep it that way.

She said the stampede was a success, with about 11,000 people attending over the three days.

More Vernon News