Little Red Horse

Little Red Horse

This image is a composite from several photos. It is one of my favorite techniques.

So many images that I shoot of horses these days have to be in a contained area (well, actually almost all except those in Wyoming and those horses are contained by cowgirls!), that it’s hard to get that sense of freedom seeing a horse brings to us.

After all, there’s nothing freeing about being inside an iron fence, right?

So I often remove backgrounds and put effects like this in place.

The cool thing is, horses can feel free inside an arena — and to watch them let loose is so much fun. This little guy could just have easily been running on the plains or flying across a mountain pasture. In his mind, the wind and the speed and the feeling were not contained within the iron rails. Horses truly live in the moment, and they live the moment to the fullest of its potential. Sometimes the potential is speed. Sometimes it’s to work with a human. Sometimes it’s just simply the act of being. There’s a lesson there.

Raccoon Skull with Ironweed

Raccoon Skull with Ironweed

A few weeks ago — well, exactly one month ago Friday — we went on a sojourn to the Crossroads district of Kansas City for First Friday. There, we discovered the most amazing shop called Oracle. A place full of all kinds of curiosities — skulls, taxidermy, bones, teeth, feathers. A shop FULL of items forsaken. Their website is http://www.oraclekc.com.

You can imagine my immediate fascination.

The visit reminded me of a project I’d begun a long time ago: to photograph skulls with flowers. Inspired partly by my deep interest in all things left behind; partly because of my long time enchantment with skulls and bones; and partly because I’m a huge fan of Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of skulls and flowers.

I photographed a racoon skull with some lilacs. And then I got busy with 1000 other things. But the project has always stayed on my mind.

Over the past few years, I’ve been collecting and borrowing skulls of all shapes and sizes. My friends and relatives have become aware of my desire to get more skulls and so I now routinely receive skulls and bones as holiday gifts (thank you cousin Ron!). It makes for great conversation when there is a skull peeking out of a holiday themed bag in the back seat of my truck. Nick and Billy also collect them from everywhere. Many are from our farm from animals who have passed naturally, wild and domestic. Some are from hunting where the animal was taken for food or as population control. The collection is becoming quite extensive. (And, yes, I can always use more, so if you have one to give or loan, let me know!)

So, to make a long story longer, I came home from July First Friday’s all enthused. Nick was kind enough to get some of the skulls out of the still packed boxes in the shop. I set up a studio in our new basement and, viola, one month later we have photos of skulls and flowers. In true procrastinator style, I managed to cut the last of the Queen Ann’s lace (at dark) and pair it with a coyote skull. As an afterthought, I snatched a batch of Missouri ironweed growing among the Queen Ann’s and there you go — Raccoon Skull with Missouri Ironweed. Below is Coyote Skull with Queen Ann’s lace in color and infrared. I think I like the infrared version better. Click to enlarge the photos below.

About the Forsaken Gallery

Forsaken objects fascinate me.

What we leave behind, abandon, relinquish, disown, junk, dump and scrap absolutely amazes me. It says a lot about who we are as a culture, that forsaken objects are in abundance throughout our world. It says a lot about an individual as to what unique forsaken objects he or she has discarded.

Junk and junk yards have been a favorite photographic haunt of mine since my very first camera. Some of the very first images I made were of disavowed items. They are a favorite subject in this blog. They include everything from living breathing animals to houses; tractors to Anastazi Ruins; trucks to trinkets; skulls to shells.

Forsaken Gallery: Fordson Power Major

Forsaken Gallery: Fordson Power Major

This Fordson tractor is at my cousin’s house. Many members of my family love to collect junk with the thought of future repair — but it often gets abandoned to more pressing projects and time. Farms have a way of doing that to you — stealing away even the best intentions. It is not at all unusual to find tractors, combines, plows, and other implements simply left where they were last used. I love the added effect of the tools in the seat, all growing moss and rust along with the tractor itself. It makes you wonder what life intervened in this tractor’s repair — what was the last thought before laying down the tools in the seat and moving on never to return?

About the Forsaken Gallery

Forsaken objects fascinate me.

What we leave behind, abandon, relinquish, disown, junk, dump and scrap absolutely amazes me. It says a lot about who we are as a culture, that forsaken objects are in abundance throughout our world. It says a lot about an individual as to what unique forsaken objects he or she has discarded.

Junk and junk yards have been a favorite photographic haunt of mine since my very first camera. Some of the very first images I made were of disavowed items. They are a favorite subject in this blog. They include everything from living breathing animals to houses; tractors to Anastazi Ruins; trucks to trinkets; skulls to shells.

Next

Next

Powerful. Capable. Confident.

Ready.

All of these words describe Holly True, the subject in this image.

Around the ranch, she has been dubbed the Stallion Master. That should tell you a lot considering she’s only 18. She is an accomplished horse trainer. She is well educated — she can talk with you articulately and all in the same conversation about politics, poetry and philosophy. She can, as her title suggests, handle stallions — as well as mares, foals, and riding horses. She is good with a gun. She can do whatever the task is at hand — gates, trucks, hay, trailers …

She never backs down. She is always ready for what’s next. That is Holly.

In this image, it looks to me like she’s ready to ride the NEXT horse she decides to cut from the herd.

We’ve all heard the story of some {insert country} tribe that doesn’t allow cameras because they {ignorantly} feel that a photograph can steal their soul. We laugh at the concept of someone so backward that they could believe such a notion. But is not that the ultimate goal of a photograph — to set to record the essence of a person, place, animal or object? Not maybe to “steal,” but at the very least to borrow or capture that subject’s truth in that place and in that moment in time.

When I was in college, I was a creative writing major. My favorite format was the short story — still is if you want to know the truth. Once I had a discussion with other writers and we came to the conclusion that novelists were short story writers who didn’t know when to stop writing and short story writers were poets who used too many words. The more economy to the words, the more intense the writing.

When I look at this image its economy of words speaks to me. Whether you glance at it or study it for an hour, it will tell you a story — and that, to me, makes it my favorite photograph out of the 6000 plus images I’ve shot this week.

What’s more, is that I didn’t force the image. As an artist, I trusted my process and I trusted my subject. I didn’t agonize over settings or measure the light; I didn’t try to wrangle the horses or manipulate the scene. I had just been there when Holly dismounted from the horse she’d been riding bareback — actually, she had caught that horse from the herd, jumped on, run full out for a group of photographers and, having completed that,  slid off to release him back to his buddies. When she walked by me, I noticed she had “bareback butt” — and I liked the thought of that in an image, so I had her turn around so I could photograph her dirty jeans. In the background, the herd of horses were milling around where the wranglers were holding them until the photographers could get down the hill to photograph them as they ran down. Next thing I know, this image was in my camera.

As a photographer, as a story teller, this is the best kind of image — real, raw, powerful, authentic and unplanned.

Below are two more images of Holly from this week’s shoots…

Dark Messengers

Dark Messengers

“Leave no black plume as a token of the lie thy soul hath spoken.” — The Raven, Edgar Alan Poe

One of the things that I love about being a writer and a photographer — artist — is that you hone your skill of seeing. Throughout my last trip, and even when I came home, ravens (crows here in Missouri) have been a constant presence for me. Or warning.

Every raven I see seems to whisper to me, softly inviting me into their obsidian world of truth and lies. It is a journey I am not sure I want to take. It is a journey I can not resist to take.

Lies masquerading as truth are a theme in my life. From childhood, though adulthood and very much so in the past few months. I have entertained them, courted them, denied them, begged for them, held them close and pushed them away.

It will be interesting to see where the journey takes me as I follow the ravens …  I promise, I will invite you along if you dare to follow.