From Southern belles to bull riding and machine gun parties, Nashville photographer captures people in the South enjoying their own take on life
By Jessica Jerreat
PUBLISHED: 20:38 EST, 25 July 2013 | UPDATED: 21:02 EST, 25 July 2013
From Confederate flag outfits to cowboy boots and big guns, summer in the South stands out for its residents' love of outdoor life and having a good ol' fashioned time.
Nashville photographer Tammy Mercure has been chronicling the culture and spirit of the South since 2008, giving the rest of the world a rare insider's view of everything from extreme bull riding in Virginia to the world's largest machine gun shoot in Kentucky.
While some of the events are huge social gatherings, such as Nascar racing which can draw crowds of 16,000, others are more intimate spiritual affairs, with a handful of people recreating a religious or historic event.
Got a light? A man with a flamethrower helps a friend in need of a cigarette lighter
Southern sole: From his Stetson to his adorned boots, this man is all cowboy
Wild one: This biker has decked out his motorbike in antlers, though it is not clear if they are hunting trophies or roadkill
Ms Mercure said: 'The majority of the people I meet are really passionate about their "thing", whether it is Nascar or a beauty pageant. I feel that they appreciate me for being into photography - and take the time to really show [me] something.'
She told NPR: 'I plan on living somewhere in the South for the rest of my life. The tea is sweet, and the weather is good for shooting every day of the year. And one can always find a live wrestling match.'
Some of the more unexpected events the photographer has covered include the extreme bull riding contests that take place over the winter in Washington County Fairground's inside arenas, and the biggest machine gun shoot that takes place in West Point, Kentucky, each year.
It is the community spirit that attracted Ms Mecure to the machine gun shoot, which she has been attending every year since 2008.
Stars and bars: This Southern belle wears a dress inspired by the Confederate flag
Marlboro man: This cowboy relaxes with a cigarette at a bull riding event
Ride em': A bull bucks and charges around the arena at a rodeo in Washington County
Bark fest: Hounds bark and leap with excitement at a 'treeing' contest where a raccoon is a cage is used to encourage dogs in a barking contest
She explained in her website that in between firing, visitors and officials gather on the two outdoor galleries to look at the debris.
The bull riding is another event that attracts families. After the macho cowboys risk life and limb clinging to the bucking animals, children copy them in competitions known as Mutton Busting.
The spirit of the South comes through in Ms Mercure's images, which reveal the independence and fun-loving nature of its people.
Easy living: An old car seat in the back of a pick up truck is all this dungaree-wearing man needs to relax
Cooling off: A deep pit of red mud can be the perfect way to stay cool in the hot summer
Champ: A wrestler back flips over the ropes at a wrestling match
Parade: The swimsuit round is judged in a beauty queen contest
Big ambitions: This tiny pageant winner will soon grow into her over-sized tiara
Wholesome: White blouses and gingham is the dress code for this Southern event
Open: People in the South appear to wear their hearts on their sleeves, and tattoos of their children and favorite animals on their legs
Animal antics: From dressing up like your dog, to taking your pet goat for a day trip, animals are an important part of Southern life
Pets on parade: This pup is getting in the festival spirit with a USA headband
Party animals: Youngsters wear horse masks and pink pony outfits to a dance
Flag day: A young boy displays the Confederate flag
Shrine: A makeshift shrine shows Jesus with the stigmata displayed on his palms
Smoke screen: A young boy wears ear protectors at a gun firing rally
Search: Dressed in camouflage a man at the largest machine gun shoot inspects the ground
Right to bear arms: A couple of people fire pistols into the bushes for fun
Close to nature: A couple of boys take cover in the trees
Raining cats and dogs? An elderly woman uses her umbrella to shield her from the sun
Ready for nightfall: As the sun sets this boy is ready to light up the night with his glow in the dark fake teeth
Costume party: A girl dresses up for a Southern gathering
Race day: A young Nascar racing fan is gripped by the action on the track
Dust bowl: A biker is shrouded in smoke and dust at a rally
Fox and the hound: A groomer turns this poodle into a piece of art
Lucky night: A man removes a garter from the leg of this can-can dance entertainer
Dive in: Tammy Mercure's photographs immerse the viewer into a Southern sense of fun
Something different: A man sports the clean shaven and bearded look in one go
Riding into the sunset: A Native American headdress and the Stars and Stripes flag add to this rider's outfit
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