Noted Rodeo photographer dies at 86
TUCSON, AZ – Louise Serpa, a widely respected PRCA photographer for more than 40 years who was often referred to as the “Ansel Adams of rodeo,” died Jan. 5 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 86.
Serpa began photographing junior rodeos in 1960 with a $27 camera and three years later became the first female photographer to receive her Rodeo Cowboys Association card.
She photographed rodeos all over the Western U.S. and her work has found its way into private collections and national publications, including the ProRodeo Sports News (PSN), People magazine and British Vogue.
In 1982, she received a silver buckle for producing the Best Action Photo of the Year from PSN and Frontier Airlines. She was presented the PRCA Excellence in Rodeo Photography Award in 2005 for her body of work.
Serpa was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1999, received the Tad Lucas Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2002 and entered the Pima County (AZ) Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
A collection of Serpa’s best work in the arena was published in the coffee table book “Rodeo” in 1994, with text by Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry.
“I love the rodeo – the charge I get from it – the people in it,” Serpa once told the Arizona Daily Star. “I’ve photographed children in junior rodeos and then as full-grown men.”
A tribute to Serpa will be scheduled as part of the Feb. 18-26 La Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson; this would have been the 50th time Serpa photographed the action at the event. A collection of Serpa’s images are currently featured in the photo gallery at http://www.tucsonrodeo.com.
She died one day before the opening of a show featuring her work and that of her daughter Mia Larocque – “Spirit of Rodeo Shared in Images” – at the Tucson Airport’s Lower Link Gallery. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
“Her passing represents not only a personal loss, but a professional loss as well,” said Gary Williams, general manager of the Tucson Rodeo. “Louise did more to promote the sport of rodeo, and specifically the Tucson Rodeo, than anyone.”
Serpa is survived by daughters Lauren Serpa and Mia Larocque, and grandson Taylor Grammar.