As I was nearing the end of my studies at Utah Valley University, the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. My classes were disrupted and my studies moved to online. As I didn't know how long this would go on for at the time, I wanted to focus on what my BFA project would be and start experimenting with it.
I had never photographed horses before, but I've always found them to be fascinating animals. As one of mankind oldest companies, historically significant in transportation and war, these powerful animals command respect. Today, many horses are cared for by loving owners, who enjoy the culture surrounding horse riding and stabling.
For my project, I wanted to juxtapose these privately owned horses with those still wandering the lands. Domestic and wild, I'd show them both with my photography. I took a number of photoshoots at different stables, getting to know these owners and learning more about the animals themselves. These horses were very important to their owners, and having them photographed helps them to express their equestrian lifestyle. Working with the horses was also something new. These animals are quite interactive and have more personality than one might think.
For the other component of my project, a guide took me out into Onaqui Mountains to photography Utah's wild herd. I discovered that wild horses are a source of controversy, with competing groups having intense debate on how to manage the populations of the herds. The Bureau of Land Management holds a round up to collect a certain number of these horses to be sent to federal facilities. Many of them live the remainder of their lives in less than ideal conditions. It's argued they are invasive on the lands, but much of this argument comes from ranchers whose own animal herds far outnumber the horses. Conservationists fight to protect these animals as important symbols of the American west.
At the conclusion of my project I displayed my imagery in photography exhibition at my campus. Though my school project was solely focused on the horses themselves, I would still make an effort to photograph humans interacting with them. The imagery I shot for my project led to other opportunities working with clients and their horses. Last summer I was photographing an event that hosted a polo match. It quite interesting to see these animals ridden for what's considered a classy sport.
Though I didn't have a history photographing horses before my University project, they've remained some of my favorite subject matter. If someone reading this blog happens to be a rider or owner, I'd love to help you collect beautiful equestrian photography. Please feel free to contact me below.