My daughter was reaching high school age and I didn’t want to raise her in Las Vegas, so we moved. We were heading to Tuscon where I was planning on taking my stallion to visit a friends dude ranch for the weekend, to get away. On the way, we went thru a small town in AZ called Wickenberg and it was the cutest little town! I went to the Cowboy Café, now called Spurs and saw an ad for a job on a recovery ranch, so I applied and two weeks later, I was working and living in Wickenberg!
I had my job, my daughter was starting high school and I decided to start a website which was designed for riding/marketing/selling horses, to supplement my income. I didn’t have a professional grade camera, so I started off with a simple point-and-shoot camera and I started taking pictures of sale horses for the website.
After Wickenberg (and subsequently Dewey Arizona, a smaller town outside of Prescott) I moved to Phoenix where the job opportunities were so much better. (The icing on the cake is, that Phoenix is also where I met my husband!) While I lived in Phoenix , I purchased a professional grade camera which as it turns out was way over my head so I did the logical thing, I decided to LEARN how to use it. I joined several photography clubs, photography groups and organizations and I learned a great deal just by being involved.
After several years in Phoenix, my husband and I moved to Chicago and I took advantage of all the workshops and professionals that resided in Chicago. I attended workshops and was very involved in the photography. The market in Chicago was focused more on glamor than horses or western life, but that is where I came up with the idea of Cowgirl Glitterati and that’s when I started focusing on shooting girls and horses.
I began travelling back West frequently, because I knew a lot more barrel racers and western people back there, I loved shooting images of them. I noticed a lot of the girls I was shooting, simply didn’t have the clothes. Don’t get me wrong, tee-shirt pictures are good but sometimes you want to do something really fantastic and it takes different clothing so I contacted “Cowgirl Kim”.
Cowgirl Kim was amazing and so gracious and we worked out an arrangement where I provided the models and the photographs and she provided the clothing. Who doesn’t feel pretty in beautiful clothes? It was like Christmas when we received boxes of apparel from her and then the fun began…figuring out how we were going to present it. I found I liked working with many of the same models because it was easy to establish a rhythm that worked and I got really good at doing ‘catalog’ shoots. I really enjoyed the experience but I wanted to expand my knowledge so I decided to get a little more creative and get into more ‘editorial’ shooting.
One thing I began studying at this point in my career was the off-camera flash. When shooting outdoors, I always liked to shoot with natural light but sometimes, you can’t. I began studying Joe McNally and learned more about being creative and capturing the light. I discovered you can make everyone look good, in good light and bad lighting can make anyone look bad and that is so important to good photography. It’s challenging to know where the lighting will fall, what’s the timing of the light, those things. With off-camera lighting, you can put someone in the shade and use the off camera lights to your advantage and I liked that.
With horses, it can be challenging because the lights are small so consequently, I have lots of lights. Sometimes I look like a one-man-band when I’m traveling or setting up for a photo shoot! It is so interesting to be on this journey because I find I am very critical of my own work. I remember when I was barrel racing years ago, I always thought the more I raced, the more natural and easier it would become and that wasn’t necessarily the case – in fact the opposite! The more you know, it actually is harder because there are so many more things to think about. There are sometimes when I’m at a shoot, that I’m afraid I forgot HOW!
It’s great to be published but honestly, I do this more for the girls I work with. I take them in and they become somewhat like daughters to me. I love working with and helping nice people. Sometimes I do shoots with girls and my only goal is to help promote them, and to try to get them a cover because that’s FUN for me to do that for them and incredibly exciting! I love it that of ‘my girls’ is now modeling for Gypsy Soule and another is runner up in Miss Rodeo America this year!
I’m here because I do what I do, for the LOVE of it. It’s a very competitive, tough profession I’ve chosen. I’m fortunate because I get to pick and choose what I do and if it’s not any fun, I don’t do it. It’s important for me to throw everything I have into my shoots not just go through the mechanics of shooting. My work feeds my soul but I have to say, in the end…I love photography but my passion remains horses.
I would love to do something that combines my passion for horses and my love for photography. I’m hoping to get in on a cattle drive this summer where I can capture not only the essence of the cattle drive, but of the campfires, the horses and things that tell a story. I want to keep doing the fashion and the cowgirl shoots but I also want to expand and do a little more traditional work as well. I sometimes hear people say things like “That’s not a real cowgirl” simply because of how they’re dressed. I say, EMBRACE IT! I believe that what you practice, you become. Embrace the fact that a Cowgirl can look like she just stepped off the runway OR she can be makeup-less and riding a horse, either way, she’s a COWGIRL. We are all so multi-dimensional and I think it’s important to capture that.
Another important thing for me is this: When I shoot my girls, I want them to be feminine but powerful. I want them to project power and strength in themselves. I really enjoy photographing STRONG women. I think that’s empowering and I think it’s important.
I think everyone has family situations that involve addictions, illness, abuse. It would be really awesome to get pictures of some of the people who have survived those things. I’d love to have dramatic lighting, great backgrounds, amazing clothing, horses and just make it a beautiful setting where I could take someone’s picture and give it to them so they could see their own strength, their own power. To me, that would be really rewarding and how amazing would it be to give them a picture to symbolize what they have accomplished! A picture they could look at every day, regardless of what’s going on, that see that they ARE Strong and they ARE powerful!
I’d like to have pictures of strong women, with horses that little girls could look up to and say “I want to be like that!”. Maybe my pictures can inspire other people, like so many pictures have inspired me.
Copyright Photos courtesy of Laura McClure / Laura McClure Photography
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