What True Grit (Might Have) Looked Like: The Photographs of F.M. Steele

For Immediate Release:
September 5, 2013
Contact: Lorenzo Butler
What True Grit (Might Have) Looked Like: The Photographs of F.M. Steele

The mythology of the American West evokes images of cowboys and outlaws, stagecoach ambushes and train robberies, Native Americans and damsels in distress, and untamed landscapes and wild animals.

In reality, life in the Old West was dominated by hard work, brutal weather, and simple pleasures. A look at one aspect of that world -- the lives of cowboys -- is explored in the exhibit What True Grit (Might Have) Looked Like: The Photographs of F.M. Steele on display from September 20 - November 28, 2013, in the Guldner Gallery at the Central Library, 14 W 10th St.

The exhibit is sponsored by the Center for Great Plains Studies at Emporia State University and The Kansas City Public Library in collaboration with the Emporia State University Alumni Association.  It is presented as part of this fall's Kansas City Big Read centered on Charles Portis' Western novel True Grit. 

What True Grit (Might Have) Looked Like explores the real-life cowboys who worked the open ranges of southwest Kansas, southeast Colorado, northeast New Mexico, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma. This genre-crossing exhibit juxtaposes Steele's photographs with passages from True Grit  to help visitors envision the world in which heroine Mattie Ross and her companions -- Rooster and LaBoeuf -- had their adventures.

In 1890, Francis Marion "Frank" Steele (1866-1936) arrived in Dodge City, Kansas, with a buggy outfitted with photographic equipment and headed into the West to photograph cowboys at work. By the turn of the 20th century, Steele had opened photography studios in more than a dozen towns in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.

Steele considered himself an artist, and his photographs are remarkable for their composition and aesthetic quality. But his work is more important today for its documentary value. Over the course of his career, Steele documented nearly every facet of life in the southwestern plains.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and bring its transformative power into the lives of citizens. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.

Admission to the exhibit is free. Free parking is available in the Library District Parking Garage at 10th and Baltimore.

Kansas City Public Library Beta