‘Once upon a time was Kate. She was white as flowers, warm as sun-shine, wild as whiskey and swinging like a lamp.’ – Desmond Skirrow
Atlas Gallery is pleased to present a selection of cinematic black and white prints from the historic photobook Cowboy Kate & Other Stories (1964) shot by South African-British photographer Sam Haskins and exhibited for the first time.
Haskins and his wife Alida dreamt up the spirited Cowboy Kate tale after a model playfully posed in Haskins’ studio with her own black suede hat. Haskins’ dynamic photographs tell the tale of Kate’s youthful adventures fighting for justice in the Old West as she leaps lightly from page to page with a spring in her step.
Cowboy Kate is a benchmark in the history of photography. Executing his photographs with technical and directorial mastery, Haskins combined a conscious use of exaggerated grain with a cinematic approach and sensitivity to his subject matter which made the book one of the most original photographic developments of the Sixties. It was the first photo book ever to offer a purely visual fictional narrative, and in doing so turned an unknown model into a fashion industry icon.
Using cinema Westerns as a creative reference point Haskins designed and built a fantasy Western world of boardwalks, saloons, deserts and jails in his Johannesburg studio. The athletic cheekiness of Cowboy Kate, with her tousled hair and tilted hat, captivated its original 1960s audience; Haskins’ liberated aesthetic speaking to the emerging zeitgeist of the period. Haskins’ sensitive reinvention of the nude created a book that celebrated the innocence of youth and wholesome beauty with timeless appeal.
‘Cowboy Kate & Other Stories is one of Haskins’ most important projects from his early career, along with Five Girls (1962), November Girl (1967) and African Image (1967). All four books came together within seven years from 1960, each one making a lasting mark on the history of photography. Cowboy Kate remains the most popular of the three figure books and is one of the most referenced photo books in post-war photography, it continues to influence artists, photographers, make-up designers, pop stars and fashion designers on an international scale.
‘Kate’, as the book is often referred to, had its place in photographic history cemented in 2005 when the International Center of Photography in New York included the book in their exhibition, The Open Book: A History of the Photographic Book from 1878 to the Present. When it was first published in 1964, Cowboy Kate and Other Stories won the prestigious Prix Nadar in France and since then has sold almost one million copies worldwide. Haskins work will return to France in November, with Atlas Gallery’s participation at Paris Photo 2019.
Cowboy Kate & Other Stories
19 September – 16 November 2019