To those who wear CINCH clothing, this is not merely a slogan. Since 1996, the CINCH brand has prided itself in innovative, fashion-forward and functional designs made for people who live by those words day in and day out. Be it in the arena, on the ranch, in the shop, or spending time with your family, CINCH clothing is created to go where you go, providing optimum performance and comfort every step of the way.
It was with this in mind that the CINCH team set out to do something rarely seen in western industry photography: capture the genuine and authentic moments of real people — men, women, children, families, friends — doing what they do every day. No models, no actors, no makeup or hair stylists. No posing or forced interactions. No inauthentic lighting or heavy-handed beauty editing. We shot in the rain and cold, in the heat and sweat, in the dirt and mud, and we captured every authentic moment through the eyes of two amazing photographers. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse into our CINCH Real Life, Real People Photo Shoot.
Our shoot started with Dave and Nola Means, members of a family rich in western tradition and whose roots in Colorado stretch back five generations, when Jackson Means headed west by way of covered wagon from Indiana to Colorado. Nola and Dave, whose father was among the first members of the Gunnison County 4-H club, continue to live out their family’s tradition to this day, on their ranch along the Quartz Creek near Parlin, Colorado. Upon seeing their images, Nola commented, "I can’t thank the CINCH team enough. These (pictures) sure touch my heart, because when I look at the photos, I see our lives. It makes my heart happy."
After a picturesque morning at the Means Ranch, the CINCH team rolled into the town of Gunnison to photograph local business owner Daren Morrison at his shop, Morrison Tile and Stone. Daren went to work, starting on some custom countertops, and finishing by carving out a stone he will eventually use as a custom stone sink. "Creating these one-of-a-kind pieces for people will always be why I do this. Taking something that might not look like anything special, and then finding the beauty and interest below the surface is what motivates me."
We all know this life isn’t easy! From Gunnison, we embarked on an hourlong trek past Ohio Creek up to Carbon Creek, where Wendy Collins and her family are currently keeping some 300 head of cattle for the summer months. The path, made more treacherous by the impending storm seemed almost impassible at certain points, even more so towing a loaded horse trailer. As we broke through the trees into the meadow, and the family began unloading, saddling and bridling their horses for the drive ahead, the beauty and remoteness was overwhelming. We journeyed higher still, and the family disappeared back into the trees, following the distant echoing of the herd scattered atop the mountain. Finally, the family reemerged, and the work began. Wendy and her son Dally roped some cattle in need of doctoring while her other son, Tyler, and his wife, Hannah, treated them.
In this life, you don’t get a rain day, and when Brad and Michelle Phelps knew their cattle needed tending to, we embarked in the mud to document it. Brad, who is also a local sheriff, doctored some cattle with the assistance of his wife, Michelle, and Isaac Ashcraft, who came to assist. "To me the western lifestyle is defined by hard work and a code of ethics," Michelle said. "… Helping your neighbors and being a part of the ranching community. (It’s) for those who are self-sufficient, willing to work hard and love the outdoors and adventure. Ranching requires one to have knowledge of animal husbandry, equipment repair and operation finances, mother nature, and tenacity. It changes daily, and that’s the challenge!"
For Sam Johnson, a licensed fly fishing guide, living in the Gunnison Valley is a commitment to his lifestyle. Ever the outdoorsman, the valley has given him the perfect playground in his own backyard, and a platform to share his passion for the outdoors with his family.
Our shoot came to an end back in Ohio Creek at the Collins Ranch, as Mike Dawson and members of the Gunnison Roping Club came out to assist with some branding, and then for roping practice. For Mike, living the western lifestyle has always meant passing values and traditions to future generations. As the chairman for the Gunnison Cattlemen’s Day Ranch Rodeo, and director of the Gunnison Roping Club, he had this to say, "The 'cowboy way' education starts early with the young kids learning how to swing a rope, helping saddle that horse that is 20 times their size, shutting the gate behind them, and even facing their fears to get that wooly sheep ridden to win their first set of spurs."
To successfully shoot lifestyle, you have to be willing to be a PART of that lifestyle, and Gunnison photographer Matt Burt fit the bill. Shooting alongside CINCH photographer Benjamin Fry, Matt jumped at any opportunity to get in the mix — even hopping on a horse in Carbon Creek, and throwing on waders for the perfect fly-fishing shot.
Photography is hard. Capturing real life is even harder. But with the combination of wonderful people, talented creative minds, beautiful scenery and pure luck (and maybe the well-placed addition of a nice White Label jean!), the CINCH team couldn’t be more proud of the images captured. We hope you find them as authentic, inspiring and relatable as we do.
Mike Dawson summed up the experience for both the team and the participants perfectly: "The usual western photography misses the essence of being a cowboy. It’s not about the still shot of the model leaning on the fencepost, standing at the trailer, or walking past the big red barn. The pictures on our Gunnison photo shoot show real cowboys and real cowgirls doing what they love, with the horses they depend on with every ounce of their being."