Remembering The Fence Post contributor Tony Bruguiere
for The Fence Post
If a picture alone could tell a story, the late Tony Bruguiere would be the photographer behind it without question. Fondly remembered by many as both a photographer and writer, Bruguiere was a storyteller of the purest form.
Born and raised on the East Coast, Emile Antonie “Tony” Bruguiere IV wasn’t predisposed to the friendly Midwestern demeanor. In fact, many who met him recall a tough exterior and only a lucky few got to know the softer side of Bruguiere.
“My first encounters with Tony weren’t the friendliest,” said Rick Davis of Brighton, Colo., who was also a rodeo photographer at the same time as Bruguiere. “Once there was a camera around his neck, the competition started for Tony, and he was a little grumpy. We finally came to have a mutual respect for each other and were best friends from then on.”
Davis met Bruguiere some 20 odd years ago when both photographers were contributing to major rodeo outlets: Rodeo News Magazine, as well as the Wrangler Horse and Rodeo News. Their paths crossed often through work, but they also chose to spend a lot of time together.
“Tony pretty much became a member of our family and came over for all the holidays and we also started working on some projects together,” Davis said. “He taught me quite a bit about Photoshop, he loved that stuff. He put more hours into an image than I had ever dreamed of doing. Everything had to be perfect for him.”
Prior to a sporadic move to Fort Collins, Colo., Bruguiere attended the University of Florida in Gainesville and was trained as a marine biologist at Cape Fear Technical College in North Carolina. He first picked up a camera as a professional while serving in the United States Navy in the late 1950s.
“Tony didn’t give me a lot of details about his time in the Navy, but I would guess he enlisted when he was 18 or 20,” Davis said. “So, he was probably a photographer for the better part of 60 years. He took a lot of headshots of people when they came on board the ship and I know he took a lot of photos from the flight deck. He sent me a photo of himself in a wet suit with a bunch of underwater photography equipment. He had a pretty robust photography career with the Navy.”
When Bruguiere headed West for the Rocky Mountains, his knowledge of farming and agriculture was limited, to put it mildly. What he lacked in experience and knowledge for all things agriculture, he more than made up for with his innate desire for accuracy and inquisition.
His first introduction to the Western way of life was by way of bull riding on Friday and Saturday nights at The Sundance Steakhouse & Saloon. Bruguiere, alongside fellow photographer, Ross Lampshire, shot each performance and then brought back prints the following week for contestants to purchase. That was his first real breach into rodeo photography, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Recognized as an official Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association photographer later in life, Bruguiere covered some of the largest and most prestigious rodeo events in the country, including Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Denver National Western Stock Show & Rodeo, the Greeley Independence Stampede, and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Even though Bruguiere took incredible shots from both the arena floor and behind the chutes, he had a heart for telling stories out on the range. The story he desired to tell the most, through both writing and photography, was that of farmers and ranchers.
“Back in those days it was tough to get on some of those farms and ranches because PETA was trying to paint them in a bad light,” Davis said. “Somehow, Tony broke that barrier and was able to spend a lot of time on some pretty neat outfits.”
Building rapport with people was a skill-set Bruguiere enhanced through his time in the hospitality industry. Much of his adult life, outside of photography, was spent managing restaurants and movie theaters. Cultivating these people skills proved instrumental for Bruguiere’s writing in the latter half of his life.
Bruguiere spent a lot of time on operations in northern Colorado documenting the authentic life of what many consider a dying trade and breed. One of those operations was the 33,000-acre Lazy M8 Land & Cattle Company.
“Every time Tony wanted to come out, we had him out there,” said Scotty Hall who previously owned the operation. “It was really neat to have him document how things worked. He was very interested in the authentic way we did things. And he was really good with my boys, who were fairly young at the time. He always made a point to include them.”
ICONIC EYES AND EARS
Despite a background outside of the livestock industry, Bruguiere quickly learned his way around arenas, branding pens, and large herds of horses and cattle. He was known for being in the right place at the right time in some sticky, albeit punchy situations.
“Tony could really read a situation and when you’re talking about working around 300-500 head of cattle, that’s quite a deal,” Hall said. “He always got the right pictures and never wanted anything more than the real truth about how we did things.”
Bruguiere clearly knew his way around the back of a camera, but he also had a knack for asking the right questions. Even though some might’ve viewed Bruguiere as unapproachable or difficult to talk to, the subjects of his articles came to know him like family.
“Tony always wanted to make sure and track us through life, he would give us a call out of the blue and you could just tell that he really cared,” Hall said.
Of the iconic photos Bruguiere took, many were eventually displayed at various galleries throughout Colorado. One of those happened to be focused on Hall himself.
“I didn’t even know he took the picture because the dust was flying and the cattle were running everywhere,” Hall explained. “But, like usual, he was in the exact right place at the right time.”
He always endeavored to write the truth about his subjects. He wanted to know why we were doing things so he could understand,” Hall said. “He had a genuine interest. It was always at the heart of what made things work.”
Even though Bruguiere was a writer and photographer by profession, his motivation behind his work had nothing to do with a paycheck.
“Tony really wanted to promote the rural lifestyle,” said Steve Laffey, the subject of two articles written by Bruguiere in 2013. “He was always concerned about people understanding the rural lifestyle so it could be preserved.”
Bruguiere was also fueled by his desire to be incomparably accurate. Laffey recalls multiple phone calls from Bruguiere after the article was written to verify facts.
“I’ve been interviewed by the Wallstreet Journal, and nobody was ever as thorough or accurate as Tony,” Laffey said. “He had this desire to always make sure everything was just right, and I was very impressed by that.”
His uncanny ability to connect with people is what propelled Bruguiere’s photography beyond the pages of magazines and web pages. More than a “smile for the camera” photographer, Bruguiere naturally put people at ease from behind his lens.
It’s evident in the work he’s left behind and the lives he’s touched that Bruguiere found his purpose in life. His contributions to rural publications are a testament to his skills as well as a glimpse at the heartbeat of the nomadic man from Maryland.
“It was such an honor to know Tony,” Hall said. “He was so good to us, and he was the most authentic guy to be around. He didn’t grow up on a ranch, but he sure knew how to be around it.”
During his tenure as a writer and photographer, Bruguiere contributed to Colorado Life Magazine, Cowboys and Indians Magazine, American Cowboy Magazine, Working Ranch Cowboy Magazine, South Dakota Magazine, Morgan Horse Magazine, Pro Rodeo Sports News, the PRCA Business Journal, Timed and Tough (a Canadian rodeo magazine), Spin to Win, Rodeo News Magazine, The Wrangler Horse and Rodeo News, The Cattleman, and the Greeley Tribune.
“I really enjoyed spending time with Tony; we spent several hours working on the article about my family,” Laffey said. “And I always looked for his articles in The Fence Post and enjoyed reading them.”
Many have seen Bruguiere’s contributions to The Fence Post over the years as he regularly contributed both articles and photographs. He’s garnered quite a following from readers and will be dearly missed by those who knew him in person or through his work.
In 2016, Bruguiere moved to San Antonio, Texas, to live closer to his brother, Alexander Greene. On June 1, 2021, at the age of 82, Bruguiere passed away. After a lifetime of storytelling, it’s only fitting that Tony Bruguiere’s story lives on as well.
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