Off the Bull: The faces of a rodeo

It takes a bold man to choose bull riding as his life's work. Because of the extremity inherent in rough stock competition, what’s been called “the most dangerous eight seconds in sports” is also one of the most fascinating. If they’re lucky, professional bull riders can spend decades chasing titles, money and fame while risking serious injury. But what’s often more impressive than the championship belt buckles accumulated are the scars, stories and tough-as-nails spirit acquired in the pursuit of glory. 

Voted the nation’s best small town rodeo three years over, the 31st Annual PRCA Pro Rodeo in Bandera, Texas served as the backdrop to "Off the Bull," a photoseries capturing the moxie of athletes and former-athletes devoted to the unpredictable sport. The weekend’s competitors ranged from near-rookies to riders who amass the equivalent of an enviable salary throughout the year to retired champions who now judge inside the arena. Despite any differences in age or talent, they are bonded by sheer determination, grit and guts.

Lucchese positioned a camera between the back pens and the bucking chutes and asked bull riders to step in for a rapid-fire portrait immediately after their ride. The result is a collection of photos that preserve the beads of sweat, dusty vests and grimaces of pain, defeat or victory that come after seconds spent atop some of the most powerful animals in the world.

Casey Stone; 35 years old from Huntsville, Texas.

Doug Adams; pro bull rider for 13 years and current pro judge.

Bryden Atkins; 21 years old from Wangaratta, Australia. Bryden came clear across the world to go to bull riding school and compete in the U.S. professional circuit. 

Clyde Kimbro; Pro judge and former professional bull rider who threw in the towel at a 58 years old after appearing in the blockbuster 8 Seconds

Lane Toon; 21 years old from Lane, Oklahoma. Lane took home prize money and 4th place at Bandera, which came as a relief. He'd spent any money he'd had on the competition's entrance fee.

Roddy Coquat; Former professional bull rider and current pro judge. Roddy recently retired from firefighting, which he'd pursued after quitting the competitive rodeo circut. He sought an outlet that was "as freeing and adventurous as his bull riding days."

Toby Lee; 19 years old from Hobbs, New Mexico. "It's a test of faith each time, but you got to be confident too," Toby has said.

Caleb LaFrance; 23 years old from Athens, Texas. In March of 2013, Caleb suffered a broken leg and severed artery in a bull riding accident. He's currently in recovery. 

All photography by Casey Dunn.