“Photographs are one of the most powerful tools there are to communicate a message and to illuminate a situation. They provide a window into another world that can draw people in, and can elicit an emotional response. When people care, they become motivated to help, and to support a cause, and an organization.”
I have to admit that I stumbled into having a cause. Four years after starting my horse photography business, I was invited on a photo tour of wild horses in Wyoming. After spending two days viewing wild horse families not just surviving but thriving in very wild, arid, difficult lands, and thriving, I was completely captivated, I was hooked. I returned again and again, getting to know different horses and families, and when I found out that most of them were going to be rounded up and removed from Adobe Town in Wyoming, I was shocked and determined to document this. The roundup was so horrific, seeing horses terrified, injured, losing their families and being removed from their home, that I could not even look at the photographs until 4 months later. However, I became determined to help these horses, and show that they belong on our public lands and deserve to live out their lives wild and free. I wrote my first book, Wild Hoofbeats: America’s Vanishing Wild Horses. I became an advocate for wild horses, traveling and speaking across the county and education people through my books and social media about the issues facing wild horses and what people could do to help.
In 2014 I was invited to join the board of directors of Wild Horse Freedom Federation, and became the Director of Field Documentation. The goals of Wild Horse Freedom Federation matched my own, striving to save the wild horses in America and educating the public on why they should remain wild and free on our public lands. And my photography has been one of my strongest assets in my role on their board.
As upsetting as my images of the wild horse roundup were, they shed light for people on how devastating the actions of the federal agency charged with managing wild horses, the Bureau of Land Management, could be on these sensitive and beautiful creatures. My photos that showed horses running in fear from the helicopters with terror in their eyes make much more of an impact one people than a mere written description.
When I talk about the family being the most important part of wild horses’ lives, a tender photo of a mare bending protectively over her foal, or a stallion protecting his family speak very loudly.
How do you take a photograph that has impact, that might move people to take action to support and organization? My answer would be to find subjects at the heart of your mission, learn about them and photograph them in a casual, captivating and engaging way. I have never been a proponent of stiff studio portraits. I say, get outside and take photographs of your subject when they are relaxed, and not posing for the camera…(CONTINUED)