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Angola Prison Rodeo by Photographer Travis Gillett

In a compelling collection of photographs, Travis Gillett offers a glimpse into an often overlooked world. His project, titled “Freedom Behind Bars: Angola Prison Rodeo,” features both portraits and dynamic action shots, each infused with a palpable sense of compassion. The Angola Prison Rodeo, which began in 1964 at Louisiana State Penitentiary, provides inmates—75% of whom will remain incarcerated for life—the opportunity to connect with family and friends. The event serves as a poignant reminder of the freedom that exists beyond the prison walls.

The Angola Prison Rodeo at Louisiana State Penitentiary offers inmates a rare opportunity to experience a taste of freedom through an adrenaline-pumping event. Held annually, this rodeo is a unique tradition where inmates participate in dangerous, thrill-seeking activities that include bull riding and steer wrestling. It is a striking blend of spectacle and personal triumph, giving inmates a brief escape from the confines of prison life.

This event, which dates back to 1965, allows inmates to showcase their skills and bravery while fostering a sense of community and providing a rare chance for family and friends to visit. It’s not just about the physical challenge; it also serves as an emotional outlet and a powerful reminder of the freedoms that exist beyond the prison walls. The Angola Prison Rodeo is a testament to the human spirit’s resilience, offering a moment of excitement and connection in an otherwise restrictive environment.