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|Notes on TEXAS SHERIFFS||view bio|
Kent Barker was commissioned by the legendary art director Fred Woodward to take these portraits of Texas sheriffs in 1984. Having seen a series of portraits of ballet dancers taken by Barker, Woodward, who was then at the helm of Texas Monthly magazine, made the surprising leap of commissioning the young photographer to immortalize some of Texas' rural sheriffs. Barker leapt at the chance, knowing he would be working with the last of a dying breed. In fact, Texas Monthly wasn't interested in any sheriff elected post– Miranda Law; they had to be old school.
Barker gave each of his subjects the simple instruction: “Act natural.” He would photograph for hours, until the men’s patience was all but exhausted and their expressions made the shift from genial to downright angry. "The portrait of Walter Feller from Comal County was taken at the exact moment I knew he wanted to kick my ass," says Barker. "But all in all, the sheriffs were more candid and comfortable with themselves than city people. Rufe Jordan, with his dog, is exactly as I found him when I walked into his office on the morning of the shoot. I was afraid to ask him to pose with this fluffy poodle, but when he sat down and put up his feet, it jumped into his lap and stayed put." For Barker, who has made a career in portrait photography, Sheriff Jordan proved to be that rare and noteworthy subject: the man with nothing to prove.