James Fain Obituary, Death – Longtime award-winning rodeo photographer James Fain passed away on May 10. He was 80. Back on Aug. 13, 2022, the Cache County Fair and Rodeo came to an end and it was also the conclusion of a great 60-year career for Fain in ProRodeo. Logan, Utah, the city that Fain calls home, played host to the annual Cache County Fair and Rodeo. Fain was born in Iowa but raised in Arizona and that’s where his interest in rodeo began. “I had a grade school friend who had entered, and he talked me into entering the Phoenix Jaycees Junior Rodeo,” remarked Fain in an Aug. 19, 2022, issue of the ProRodeo Sports News. “I was in the calf riding. I fell off.”
That was the beginning of a journey as a contestant that would last off and on for many years, but in typical Fain fashion, he made a significant distinction between what he did and what other competitors did in order to set himself apart. “I got on them, and that was about it,” he said. “It was a waste of my time.” Fain rode bareback horses and bulls and steer wrestled. “You hear these so-called old timers talking about back in the day. It was not the fairy tale story for me.” Despite his struggles as a competitor, Fain was fascinated with the sport. In the article that was published in 2022 in the PSN, he was quoted as saying, “I was running with a Western bunch, and I remember looking at the Western Horseman magazine all the time.” They would publish rodeo stories accompanied by Devere Helfrich’s photographs.
Helfrich was the official photographer of the then Rodeo Cowboys Association. “I ended up with this, barely a camera thing and started snapping a few around the junior rodeos,” Fain said. “It piqued my interest, and I ended up with this, barely a camera thing.” At only 19 in 1961, Fain had his first photos published in the Rodeo Sports News, the forerunner of the PSN, ironically opposite Helfrich’s images. He got his RCA card the following year.
“That first shot was of Ronnie Rossen in Douglas, Arizona,” Fain added. “That was my first shot.” “The action was great, but the focus was a little behind. I was shooting with a 35mm with 200th of a second speed. I think in that same issue, the spring issue, I had one of a bareback rider in Brawley (Calif.) and a saddle bronc at Payson (Ariz.). Those were good shots with decent focus.” Fain’s prowess as a photographer put his photos in demand with contestants and media publications.