Fort Worth, Texas, is a special place for Erwin (Skeeter) Hagler. Born, raised, and graduated high school in Fort Worth. He graduated from Eastern Hills High School on the east side of Fort Worth in 1965. Skeeter even got his first taste of photography in Fort Worth while in high school.
In high school, Skeeter spent lots of time taking photos in the Stockyards area of Fort Worth. Of course, this was well before it was the cool tourist area it is today. Cattle were passing through the pens and shipped around the country, and the intersection of Main and Exchange was mostly old bars and hotels and the home of many homeless folks who were down and out. It was not a safe place but a photography gold mine!
Skeeter attended the University of Texas in Austin after high school and pursued a degree in Architecture. Architecture is a five-year degree program with a very high dropout rate; only about 10% make it through it. Skeeter is proud to have graduated in 1971 with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture.
Ironically, Skeeter never went into Architecture and used the degree he fought so hard to get! Needing some elective hours to graduate, he thought photography sounded easy and fun, and he had a good eye for photography and a knack for working with people. Skeeter ended up working for the campus newspaper, The Daily Texan. This job allowed Skeeter to roam the campus taking photos, and he could attend most of the University’s sporting events, which served as a great learning experience.
When it was time to leave UT, Skeeter went out looking for a job in photography, not Architecture. Of course, with little experience, none was to be found.
On a whim, while driving back to Austin, Skeeter took a detour in Waco, went to the Waco News-Tribune, talked to the editor, showed his portfolio (which was not very good), and Skeeter was hired on the spot. Not only was it his first paying photography job, but it was also another excellent learning experience.
Skeeter worked for the Waco News Tribune for a year and returned home to work for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where he won several awards. After two years, he moved to the Dallas Times Herald in 1974, where he worked for 16 years. This job allowed him to travel the world on assignments, win several awards, and take home the Photographer of the Year award several times.
One of the many photo essays Skeeter did for the Dallas Times Herald’s Sunday Magazine was on the modern-day Texas Cowboy. He was lucky enough to spend some months (off and on) living and visiting the Pitchfork, JA, and 6666 ranches. He became close and connected to some of the Cowboys and became lifelong friends with some of them and their families.
Skeeter won the Pulitzer Prize for photography for his photo essay on the Texas Cowboys. Since then, he has done speaking engagements and exhibits throughout the United States and other countries, sharing his works and experiences living and photographing the lives of working Cowboys. He never claimed to be an expert on Cowboys, but the perspective he brought through his photos is as close as some will ever get.
Skeeter left the Dallas Times Herald in 1988 to do freelance work.
For the past 17 years, he has lived and worked at Blisswood Bed & Breakfast and Ranch in Cat Spring, Texas. Blisswood is a working cattle and guest ranch with 17 houses, cabins, and cottages for guests.