From wedding photography to equine portraits to photographing the Sidelines’ Hot Horsemen, Barbara Bower creates memories to last a lifetime
By Dani Moritz-Long
With only one formal hand-colored photograph to remember her mother by, Barbara Bower yearns for something more. She has no family portraits with her mother on her wall. No framed photograph of her as a child wrapped in her mother’s arms.
Sadly, many years after her mother’s passing, there’s nothing Barbara can do — no way to fill the empty frames with memories reserved in the archives of her mind. What she can do, however, is photograph everything she wishes she had for those still lucky enough to have it.
“I love what I do and my greatest pleasure comes from a client who enjoys and treasures their photos,” she said. “This is more than a business to me. It’s being able to make a priceless image that evokes emotion and memories. After losing my mother at an early age and not having anything but some snapshots of her, photography is a very emotional place for me.”
It’s no wonder, then, why so many of Barbara’s photographs evoke such deep emotions and connections between her subjects. Be it of a small girl and her loyal equine companion or of two loved ones about to say “I do,” Barbara understands the impact a photo can have. With each photo she takes, she creates a memory — a piece of history to withstand the test of time.
A Blossoming Photographer
Though Barbara dabbled in photography as a child — and has a Girl Scout badge to prove it — it didn’t click that she could pursue it professionally until junior high. After emerging as one of two suitable careers for Barbara, life behind the lens became the focus of her future.
As soon as they became available to her in high school, Barbara enrolled in photography classes. She learned all the basics — composition, color, depth, texture — and even dabbled in infrared photography and color printing.
Her senior year of high school, she peeked her head into her photography teacher’s classroom on the first day of classes to say hello. Instead of being greeted by the typical, “Hey! Did you have a good summer?” she was greeted with a job offer.
“Would you like to do a wedding?” her teacher asked her. “Yeah, sure,” she replied, laughing and shrugging the gesture off.
To her surprise, later that day her teacher revisited the subject with her and Barbara landed her first gig as a wedding photographer for a friend of her high school’s principal.
After high school, Barbara had a one-year stint at a photography school. She progressed to working in a chaotic studio, managing six to eight sessions of babies, puppies, couples and everything in between, and then found herself back where she started with wedding photography. Over the course of several years, she had the opportunity to grow and excel in photographing young children and babies, high school seniors and weddings. With the experience also came opportunities to speak and teach other photographers in the industry at some of the largest photography conventions.
One of the most exciting events in her life was the opportunity to be part of the photography team that photographed the wedding of Tony Rodham (Hillary Rodham Clinton’s younger brother) to Nicole Boxer (Senator Barbara Boxer’s daughter) at the White House. It was an event she will always treasure.
Ten years ago, after finding herself worn out by the wedding scene, Barbara knew she needed a change. At that point in her life, she was already the proud owner of her second horse, Amir. Though she hadn’t anticipated it, her life as an equestrian would change the course of her career.
Enter the show scene. As a personal pet project, Barbara photographed all the shows of a local dressage group one season, with the intent of having a slide presentation for their end-of-the-year banquet. Barbara found herself happily concentrated on the project, focused on creating the perfect presentation.
And then it hit her. Why not photograph horses? She had been dabbling in equine photography for years, and now realized she could photograph her four-legged companions professionally.
“I was at a point in my life where the weddings were crushing me,” she said. “I was just getting toasted and knew I needed something else and the horses are everything to me.” It was a match made in heaven.
A Creative Challenge
Today, Barbara still finds the time to photograph weddings every once in a while, but her passion lies with the creative challenge of portrait photography. She especially enjoys photographing animals with their people.
“I have a strong portrait background that has helped me to photograph more of a relationship study of the owner and their horse or dog,” she said. “It’s those priceless moments that we can all reflect on. I get very bored with everyone posed and looking at the camera. An image where a client is interacting with their animal speaks volumes of the relationship they have.”
Though she also enjoys photographing horse shows from time to time, Barbara adores the variety that comes with working with unique horses, riders and barns across the country with portraits.
“I don’t like things that are repetitive,” she said. “I love going to do the portraits because every barn is different. Sometimes I may go twice in one day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon — to get different lighting. I love it. This is the part I thrive on.”
But portrait photography doesn’t come without its challenges, especially with a horse with a mind of its own in the frame.
Barbara says that when working with clients with stubborn horses, she has to remind them to “act like you don’t want to kill them right now” and that usually gets a nice smile from them.
Luckily for Barbara, patience comes naturally for her so hasn’t found a horse she can’t photograph yet. Of course, knowing a thing or two about horses helps as well. For example, while other photographers might impatiently wait for the horse to stand still, Barbara knows sometimes that just isn’t possible.
“I like the challenge,” she said. “That doesn’t frighten me at all. I’m always game.”
Always On the Go
You can find Barbara photographing horses all over the country. Among other hotspots, she frequently travels to Hawaii as well as Wellington, Florida, during season.
While in Wellington, she enjoys life as Sidelines’ official hot horsemen photographer and is available for portrait photography. She also spends her time in the saddle, with instruction from Audrey Maschue and Elizabeth Niemi.
Additionally, she is currently working on a book project with the working title of Trusted Equines of the Mounted Police. She has enjoyed photographing units across North America — illustrating the connection between officer and horse — and looks forward to bringing the coffee table book to people everywhere.
For more information on Barbara and her photography, visit www.BarbarasVisions.com.
All photos courtesy of Barbara Bower