Oklahoma Cockfight—Michael P. Daley, Nick Ferreira, & Anon.
It was a time of contradictions. Get-rich-quick oil gushers and men perpetually on the bum. Zig-zag architectural wonders alongside heinous racial violence and cultural genocide. Persistent venereal disease and contagious old-time religion. Unrepentant hucksterism and wide-eyed sincerity. This was 1920s Oklahoma, booming big, for some, in the shadow of a Great Depression yet unknown. And in these times, such incongruous forces coalesced around the cockpit, if only momentarily, to behold a brutal spectacle of violence—gaffs, feathers, and blood. It was an event often as egalitarian as it was pointless and grisly.
Oklahoma Cockfight presents the work of an anonymous itinerant photographer. The images detail a 1925 cockfight that occurred in an unknown location in rural Oklahoma. Dusty and stark, these photographs serve as artifacts of a brief, violent moment lost to time. Rich swells and ragged oil hands gathered together for an hour or few.
And yet, Oklahoma Cockfight raises more questions than it answers. The identities of the spectators, the nature of their thoughts, their relationship to one another—all of these elements remain unknown and subject to speculation. The book’s very topic, controversial and illegal in the U.S., begs a moral desire to know the intentions of its participants. But such intentions can never be known. Indeed, this photography book may be little more than the framing of a massive lacunae, an eerie meditation on historicity and the inability to ever really understand those who came before.
Photographs by Anon.
Edited by Michael P. Daley & Nick Ferreira
Essay by Michael P. Daley
5.25" x 8" / Softcover