Bull Shooter

Bull Shooter

Photography Exhibit
Work by Jason Cloud Morgan
Fri, Feb 14, 5–8pm
Instituto Allende
Ancha de San Antonio 22, Centro
Photography Exhibit
Work by Jason Cloud Morgan
Fri, Feb 14, 5–8pm
Instituto Allende
Ancha de San Antonio 22, Centro

By Lou Christine

Jason Cloud Morgan, whose everyday moniker is
“Morgan,” is one of the world’s foremost photographers of fighting bulls and
steel-nerved matadors. The dedication and essential timing required to capture
compelling images during the death dance between matador and bull has been a
passion for Morgan for over 40 years.

The Ohioan ex-marine was a voracious reader as a
youth. Stories of character and courage gained his interest. Initially he took
in the exploits of Horatio Hornblower, but after absorbing Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Morgan became
enthralled with the gala of bullfighting. He was fascinated with a tradition in
which a man could face such unforgiving fury with nothing more than a rag in
hand. By 1959 Morgan was residing in Southern California which enabled him to
hop down to Tijuana to photograph the corridas.

By chance he met Don Jorge Baroso, a bull breeder whom
Morgan served under during his apprenticeship learning about the Latin world’s
longest reigning sports tradition. What Morgan
learned was that 90 percent of bullfighting audiences know nothing about the
sport. The contest has never been meant to be a kill-fest as naysayers would
maintain. The path leading to the defining and fatal moment between el toro and his collaborator was set in
stone a long time ago. Their date with destiny was booked. There’s deep-rooted
respect established between the two rivals that most humans never experience.
Both are programmed, keen to the volatile situation–the bull, through
instincts, the matador via years of disciplined training.

Cat-like reflexes and a mind invested in the throes of the corrida enabled Morgan to expertly catch its splendor and
pageantry. As the live drama unfolded, still shots would show the bull’s muscles rippling as it appeared
big-bodied and storming out of the gate. His images freeze raw expressions of
man and beast: the pulse of battle to its mortal finality. Viewers of Morgan’s
prints can almost hear the snap of the matador’s cape.

In 1986 Morgan relocated to San Miguel de Allende obtaining his Magna cum Toro and
showcasing the art of the bullring immersing himself in the grand ritual.

In 1997 an unknown Spanish novillero (apprentice matador) arrived in San Miguel. Julian Lopez Escobar, later known as El Juli was wowing small audiences in his native Spain. In boxing terms “he was a natural, a prodigy, mature beyond his years, taking out bulls in fine fashion
like nobody had ever seen before, yet, you see, there’s this technicality and
our boy can’t move up and go against the big boys because of age limitations!”
He was forbidden to fight the big bulls in Spain until he was 16!

What’s an ace 14-year-old bullfighter to do? Go west young man! Go to Mexico, the land
of the free.

El Julie arrived in San Miguel as a hardship case, not fleeing a repressive government or famine, but as a refugee of the corridas.

When it came to bull rings, Morgan kept his ears close to the ground so much so that
his lobes could have been sandy. He got wind about the kid from Spain. He was
going to fight  in San Miguel. According to Morgan the crowd was sparse, but the performance was incomparable. El Juli would fight five more times that year in San Miguel. As word spread crowds grew to standing room only as El Julithrilled onlookers with his new style.

Still fresh from rigid matador training in Spain, he was somewhat overwhelmed. Being a bullfighting apprentice in Spain is far from glamorous. Little respect and support are provided for upstarts. Yet in Mexico, El Juli was greeted like a rock star. Long time bullfighting aficionados raved about the young man’s
panache while he maintained the traditions of the corrida. Morgan befriended El Juli, when he arrived in San Miguel, and began an odyssey with him as he rose in stature, rank, and celebrity, orchestrating masterpiece performances. Morgan saw a part and acted as the perfect springboard for the kid with connections to major bull breeders and bull rings in the country. El Juli’s small team, his father, a handler, and Morgan began the circuit. In no time 45,000 bullfighting fans were jamming into Mexico City’s bullfighting plaza.El Juli was the tostada of the pueblo and with dashing audaciousness he sashayed into bull rings nationwide orchestrating mind-boggling and entertaining kills never seen before. Morgan and his camera caught it all and eventually he created a book with over 200 of his most vivid photographs of corridas.

Soon El Juliwas lured back to Spain to fight, but he still was forced to compete in the novilllero class because he was not yet 16. His growing reputation in Spain preceded his return. Sell-out crowds in Spain, Venezuela, and Mexico had spectators rubber-necking to see the action while shouting encouraging “oles”as El Juli and the bull danced and pranced to the defining moment.

The odyssey went on for a number of years, and Morgan’s camera lenses caught it all. At the Morgan exhibition at Instituto Allende, 40 of those 18×12-inch images will be on display including spectacular shots of other famous matadors like Enrique Ponce, Jose Thomas, David Silveti, and Joselito Adame.

See for yourself and attend Morgan’s opening February 14 at Instituto Allende showcasing those fabulous shots 5-8pm.