New Orleans houses many communities and cultures, but I would have never imagined urban cowboys to be one of them. Southern Riderz, the intriguing photo series by Akasha Rabut, documents a group of horse riders roaming the city’s streets.
When Akasha moved from New York to New Orleans she was immediately struck by the city’s many traditions. She would attend a weekly Sunday parade called Second Line in which people drive along in pimped-up rides – from cars and motorbikes to yes, horses. That’s where she first encountered The Game Changers, a group of horse enthusiasts.
Later, she would occasionally cross paths with them. “I would randomly see a man on a horse, with a 40 in his hand and a cigarette, riding as fast as you can down the center divide of the street,” she told TIME. “I started seeing this scene periodically and I was so intrigued by it, and intimidated. I didn’t know how to approach these men.”
Eventually she managed to meet some of these cowboys and got invited to their stables to photograph them. In the resulting series, we see the group of men and women posing with their beloved horses.
Some of them are hanging out with the local female motorcycle gang, others are pictured standing on top of their horse. In another photo there’s a young boy sitting on, fittingly, a Shetland pony. Each image is more intriguing than the last. They all throw up many questions, and offer precious few answers.
Whereas we are used to seeing cowboys in a Western movie setting – mostly white men hanging out in front of a saloon, complete with hats and pistols – Akasha pictures these riders with their bandanas, golden necklaces and streetwear in an urban environment.
The subjects themselves are the stars of the series. They look proudly into the lens, gladly showing off their horses as if parading their new-born child.