JOHN P. FOSTER
Inducted in 2001
Ellensburg photographer goes to Smithsonian. John Foster again makes top 10 list. Russell and CWU photographer among White House guests. Headlines such as these typify the career of lensman John P. Foster who is an inductees to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame. Foster’s photos of rodeo ‑‑ many from the Ellensburg Rodeo were picked eight straight years on the “Top 10” photos by Horse and Rider Magazine. His photo of world champion cowboy Larry Mahan being dragged across the Ellensburg arena was selected for the Smithsonian National Portrait gallery to represent rodeo in its sports section. That photo, published in the Daily Record, Seattle Times, Rodeo Sports News and carried on AP and UPI wires, was voted top rodeo photo of year by the International Rodeo Writers’ Association. He was invited to send a print for the Smithsonian exhibit and he’s as proud of his invitation to the gallery festivities, postmarked from the White House, as he is of his cameras and the many other photo honors bestowed on him. And there at the formal bash he met President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush as well as dozens of sports stars including NBA great Bill Russell, and of course, Larry Mahan. Foster, retired CWU journalism prof and free-lance photographer, moved with his family to Ellensburg in 1965 and he caught the Ellensburg Rodeo fever. His work here soon was seen throughout the state and in national publications, not just rodeo photos, but in both general and sports categories. Washington photo plaudits and awards came as they had from the Indiana Press Club and New Mexico Press Association where he previously toiled for newspapers in those two states. With his camera he covered the Indy 500, national basketball championships (including his alma mater Indiana University as well as Central’s Wildcats), the top rodeos of the U.S. (including the PRCA national finals) and other pro, collegiate and amateur events. His Ellensburg Rodeo arena action photos won Levi/International Rodeo Writers” Association awards seven times including his often still‑seen shot of cowboy Bob Ragsdale In an early morning calf roping. His photo of Tom Ferguson steer wrestling in Ellensburg was used to illustrate the sport in the Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year. The “Horse and Rider” magazine top photos awards included the Ragsdale, Ferguson and Mahan photos as well as one of clown Bob Romer assisting bullrider Jordie Thompson as he struggled to untangle himself from the rope after being bucked off. The hard cover “Best Sports Stories and Photos” annual, edited by Irving T. Marsch and Edward Ohre, featured Foster photos five years running. Among them a Pendleton Round‑Up wreck during a squaw race, the Romer/Thompson photo, and saddle bronc rider Jerry Bruhn “lifting” his horse after an Ellensburg arena ride. Additionally, his photos have won honors from the National Press Association and the University Photographers of America. His photo at CWU graduation ceremonies of President James Brooks futilely attempting to put an honors medal with ribbon over the head of a recipient was reprinted in Life Magazine. His photos of life in the Kittitas Valley span his 36 years here and as Kay Hageman, former Chamber of Commerce manager, said, “John’s photos of our valley and its people are a wonderful continuation of the photo record begun earlier in the century by (Otto) Pautzke.” His free-lance work has appeared in numerous magazines including Sports Illustrated, Time, Cavalier and is happily received by the state’s newspaper photo editors. Foster served on the Ellensburg Rodeo Board from 1974 through 1985 handling publicity and advertising for the big Labor Day event. Randy Witte, publisher of Western Horseman and former pro rodeo public relations man, said, “considering John’s craving for the sport and his position on the rodeo committee, you might suspect him of ballyhooing the Ellensburg Rodeo…but he knows the rodeo can stand on its own merits.” It is his photo work that attracts the media. Now living near Thorp, John and his wife Barbara’s flower and vegetable gardening are the envy of many. And John’s other ‘hobby” has him garnering even more honors. This American Poultry Association Master Exhibitor continues to bring home top honors from throughout northwest regional shows for his champion chickens and waterfowl. Whether it’s with Brahmas, broncs, steers, Wyandottes, Plymouth Rocks, or Black India ducks, John Phillip Foster is a winner.