When I left the corporate agribusiness industry to form my own business within the equestrian sector six years ago, I lost twenty years of contacts. I quickly was reminded the importance of professional connections and their role in generating business and having a network to discuss strategies and trends. Almost immediately, I met a woman involved in equestrian sport publishing that was similar to the professional colleagues I missed from my career. She was reactive and responsible with follow through and shared insight with me regarding the industry. This woman is Erin Gilmore.
Since our first introduction, I have followed Erin’s career as she grew print and online news sources and traveled around the world to achieve their strategies. In conjunction with her travels, I also observed the development of her work behind the camera lens both in technique and breadth of work. From shooting as a member of the press at the Olympics in Rio to capturing moments between a horse and rider at a private stable, her skills have evolved to create a unique style all of her own.
Erin Gilmore Photography was formed this past year. With the creation of her own business, equestrian enthusiasts across all disciplines now have the opportunity to become the subject in front of Erin’s lens. This is the inspiring story of an avid equestrian that has diligently learned the industry and subsequently created her own business niche within the world of equestrian sport photography.
You have been integral in the strategic direction and daily operations of several premiere news outlets related to horse sport. What inspired you to solely pursue equine photography?
First of all, thank you very much for that compliment. During the last eight years, I’ve worked very hard for various startup outlets to help grow their reach, depth, and credibility as news sources in the hunter/jumper world. I’m an editor, a writer, a reporter, a workflow manager, and so much more. Through this work I’ve traveled to a dozen countries and covered so much of equestrian sport. It has been amazing work, all of it. And it has been pretty nonstop as well. I’ve [memorably] talked a famous rider through writers block on Thanksgiving Eve, juggled time zones with colleagues from all around the world, spent months at a time away from home, and of course, given up most weekends to cover horse shows remotely and in person.
For me, photography is an escape from all of that. Focusing only on images, for me, is relaxing. It’s where I find my total Zen. I’m never happier than when I’m taking photos, whether it’s at an event or in a personal portrait session with a subject and their horse.
It was hard for me to finally call myself “a photographer.” I didn’t feel like I knew enough to claim that title – I’m constantly feel like I’m right at the ingate and far from the finish line when it comes to really knowing how to capture the perfect image. But last summer I finally took the leap and started putting myself out there as a photographer. My work was already known, thanks to magazine features and web coverage I’d been doing for the equestrian outlets I ran. And at the end of last year, when a change of direction led to me leaving the news source I was running, I knew it was time for me to try to stick it on my own. I’d been running other people’s businesses for years. I’d given up on having a personal life.
I constantly joke that I’m “chronically single” and I’d put my horse in a pasture to do nothing for two summers in a row because of my travel. If I can have success by putting as much effort into running my own business as I did into those of others, and have room in my life for a great personal life? Well, then I’ll really be living the dream.
Over the last few years, you have shot some of the most prestigious farms in the world and also been ringside with your camera as part of the press shooting horse sport’s most elite events including the Olympic Games in Brazil, What inspired you to add equine portraiture to your list of services?
It was almost by accident. My close friend Tara Gallagher of Eden Valley Stables asked me to take some photos of her horses, for her to hang in her barn. When I stood the horses at the end of the barn, it was a lucky coincidence that it was on an overcast day and that her barn provided the perfect setting to control the light that fell on the horses. The shots came out amazing. As soon as people saw them, I was asked to do more horses, and then more, and it snowballed from there. I’ve done the portraits of Olympic show jumpers, and a 32-year-old Arabian gelding, and every kind of horse in between.
In the last year, black background portraiture has become so popular. Amid all that visual “noise”, I’m continually inspired to find the unique element in my subject that will make my portraits stand out. It’s a pursuit that I’m endlessly fascinated by, and it just makes me happy!
A classic portrait with my own unique take on the angle of the shot.
Your portraits are known for depicting the personal connection between individuals and their horse(s). How do you accomplish capturing a “moment in time” as opposed to a just “ a pretty portrait?"
It starts with being a horseperson myself, and understanding that connection, but it doesn’t end there. Much like the intangible “feel” that great riders have with their horses, there is a “feel” for capturing that moment in time. So many things have to be taken into consideration and constantly adjusted.
When I work with an individual in a portrait session, I’m reading that person, their horse, the setting where they are comfortable, what will make them more comfortable, how much we can push the envelope, etc. It’s an exercise in communicationboth with the horse and with the rider–more than anything else.
Believe me, I’ve had the sessions where the horse gets loose, and I get the rearing shot, or the subject who I think looks absolutely beautiful comes back and wishes they’d worn a different shirt (I’ve since learned to go over those details beforehand!) But I pride myself on working with all of my subjects to put them at total ease and just enjoy the moment. Because that’s when we can produce those images that maybe they weren’t expecting, that they will cherish forever.
You are very well known and respected as a business woman, specifically in the equestrian industry. What is the most important business advice you would like to share with other professionals, specifically entrepreneurs?
Stay humble. Always, always stay humble. By that I mean that whatever you are doing, you are an active participant in that learning process, and you will never know it all. I will never know it all. But I will keep improving because I will always seek self-improvement. And also, make friends! A friend in the horse world is always a good, sometimes a great, and if you’re lucky, a profitable connection. The more you have of those, the better. Lastly, my friends tell me that I can appear too serious, so the advice I try to tell myself is to smile a lot!
Is there any other information you would like to share with the Street to Stable community about Erin Gilmore Equine Photography?
“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” is a saying that is well overused, but it’s so true. The connection that we have with horses has always been my greatest passion. Everything I do with horses is driven by that passion. Whether I’m riding my horse or taking a photograph or just sweeping the barn aisle, I’m the happiest person in the world. It’s all I want to do, and I can’t think of a better life than looking through my camera lens to find that passion in other people, and creating a tangible illustration of it for them.
During my years as an equestrian journalist and photographer, I've always followed a passion for telling the stories in equestrian sport, whether it be through the written word or images.
I've stood ringside at the Olympic Games, interviewed the sport's best around the world, and photographed the treasured partners of riders at all levels. As a rider and lifelong horse owner, I know that the horse + human connection is constant between all of us, no matter if you're jumping under a glass ceiling in Paris or tacking up your senior horse for a hack. For me, there is nothing better than the constant pursuit to capture that perfect image. Whether I'm shooting a major sporting event or photographing a subject in quiet solitude, I do it in my own unique way to produce images with meaning and emotion that you won't forget.
I'm available for freelance assignments, private commissions and photoshoot bookings. I am based in the Washington DC area, USA, and I can easily travel to your location.
I can travel anywhere in the world! For a single subject, a corresponding travel fee is added to cover expenses. When four or more photoshoots are booked in the same location, that fee is waved.
I strongly prefer to book sessions at home barns and facilities, rather than at competitions. I can work with most requests.
Our sport is expensive and many riders, specifically amateurs, carry around guilt about the money we are spending. How do we define the meaning of our riding and the costs associated to find the true value of horses in our lives?
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