UNT Libraries rounds up horse photos for first book

Man roping calf at North Texas Cutting Horse Association Finals
Man roping calf at North Texas Cutting Horse Association Finals. Photo credit: Ray Bankston, 1963.
Horse Standing Three Quarters Front
Horse Standing Three Quarters Front by Don Shugart, 1988.
Thursday, January 7, 2016 - 11:09

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- You may not know it, but Denton County is home to one of the largest concentrations of horse ranches in the world. The county has more than 350 such ranches, and many more are in the surrounding North Texas area. And Denton County is also home to a huge diversity of horses, including Thoroughbreds, American Quarter Horses, Arabians and Appaloosas.

Now, a new book printed through the University of North Texas Libraries is showcasing 40 years of photography that captures the culture and lifestyle of horse ranching and cutting horse events throughout North Texas. The UNT Libraries, which has compiled a collection of almost 6,000 photos from two photographers who documented the horse ranching industry for decades, is sharing a selection of the photos into a book, "Through the Lenses of Ray Bankston and Don Shugart." The book will be the first of several to highlight UNT's photography and visual collections.

Kevin Hawkins, an associate librarian for the UNT Libraries, said equine enthusiasts "will have a chance to see photos of the ancestors of today's most prominent horses" in the book, which will also give readers a glimpse into the history of horse ranching.

Dana Lodge, the director of sales at the Denton Convention and Visitors Bureau, called horse ranching a large part of Denton County history.

"It's our largest source of agricultural economic income," said Lodge, who directs tours of area horse ranches and cites the sandy loam soil of the region as a reason the industry thrived. "And people don't realize it's right here in our own backyard."

Don Shugart started photographing horses in 1972 and was formerly the official photographer for the National Cutting Horse Association.  He specializes in horse portraits, making sure that every horse looked perfect with straight legs, no stray hairs, eyes on the camera and head held high for every shot.

"I enjoy meeting the people that own the horses and ride them. It's always my goal to make their horses look better than they are," he said.

Ray Bankston had been working the scene for a decade before Shugart started shooting photos, but the two were able to work together in harmony.

Bankston said he entered the industry by accident. He had been interested in photography since seventh grade, but it wasn't until a man asked him to take a photo of the winning horse at a race he was attending that Bankston realized he might make a career of it.

After forming Dalco Photography with his wife, Joyce, Bankston took a mobile that he had converted into a black room to horse shows. The Bankstons would develop his photos on site for customers.

The book is available for purchase online and includes an introduction by Sally Harrison, a writer and photographer of horse ranching in the North Texas region.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108