“I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a rattlesnake before this,” photographer David Kasnic said of the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup.
Sweetwater, Texas, 40 miles west of Abilene, is home to the self-proclaimed “world’s largest” rattlesnake roundup.
Some 40,000 people turn out every year in early March to hunt down rattlesnakes and then skin them, eat them, show them off, and learn from them, according to the event’s website.
The nature of the event is what attracted Kasnic to it in the first place.
“I wanted to transfer (my style of shooting) over to something that was completely different than me,” Kasnic said.
Kasnic’s body of work focuses on the weird, young and in love. His style has begun to evolve into his professional work since he graduated from Western Kentucky University last year.
When he arrived at the roundup, he realized putting himself in a completely new situation wasn’t as difficult as he thought it would be.
“I’ve been around this culture before, but in a different way,” Kasnic explained. “These people are just as weird as anything else I’ve ever photographed.”
Though most of the participants were welcoming to Kasnic and his camera, some were wary, due to other roundups being shut down after public scrutiny.
“I think certain folks have a stereotype of people with cameras; they automatically don’t want to talk to you,” Kasnic said. “I get it.”
Kasnic walked a careful line: He tried to not portray the festival in a negative light, but he also did not want to shy away from the oddities.
After he watched a 5-year-old skin a snake, Kasnic’s first reaction was shock, but he then realized that this was the culture of the roundup and he had to adapt to it.
His approach to the entire event resulted in an essay that shows the nuances of the 55-year-old tradition without casting judgment.
“It’s basically the same thing I’ve done before but with a new subject matter and a new environment,” Kasnic said.
- Clint Alwahab, CNN