Back in 1958, some brave folks in Sweetwater, Texas, began rounding up rattlesnakes as a form of population control. But since then, the annual Rattlesnake Round-up has become a tourist attraction, garnering both awe and criticism.
In March 2012, Brooklyn photographer David Kasnic trekked to the small west Texas town and photographed the weekend-long event, where handlers amass more than 10,000 rattlers and then help visitors milk, behead, and skin the snakes in front of large crowds.
"The mood is festive," writes Kasnic on his photography website. "In this atmosphere, it is almost easy to forget that life is being extinguished in front of you, as eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are slaughtered and skinned in assembly line fashion."
Many Sweetwater locals see the round-up as part of their cultural heritage — a birthright. Friends and family flush the snakes out of dens with gasoline. Fathers teach their sons how to skin the rattlers. Each newly anointed Miss Snake Charmer either milks a live snake or skins a dead one (although it's said that no beauty pageant winner has ever selected the "live" option).
Those brave enough to skin a snake dip their hands in a bucket of snake blood, and leave their mark on a nearby wall.
Below, a selection of Kasnic's photographs of an event both horrifying and spectacular.
**See more of Kasnic's work via his website**