The art of horse photography in Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 February 2015 | UPDATED: 19:40 18 April 2016
A devastating theft made a young woman rethink her life and it led to a new and creative career
Lisa Wasilewski’s passion for horses is crystal clear. ‘There’s always got to be a horse in my life,’ she says. ‘I’ve always been obsessed.’
She spent years saving up while working as a groom and riding teacher in the West Lancashire village of Lathom and her wish came true when she was able to buy a Spanish gelding, named Spirit. Her joy was short-lived. Three years ago thieves entered the field where Spirit was kept and stole him.
Lisa, who is 31, said: ‘I always wanted a horse from being a child but my single mum could not afford one. So I used to hang around stable yards and as soon as I started working I saved and saved until at 27 I had enough to buy Spirit, a beautiful horse with a wild heart. I waited all my life to get him. He was such a character - he could bite and kick and I was the only person who could handle him.’
Spirit - a dappled grey gelding, who would be mainly white now - was taken from his field in south Manchester. Lisa believes he was stolen to order because he was the only one taken from a field containing 12 horses.
‘I will never stop searching for Spirit. I have another horse now, a Spanish stallion named Bailaor, but it’s not a replacement. It destroys me now to think about it. I just hope whoever has Spirit is taking proper care of him.’
The theft made Lisa take a long hard look at her life and she decided she needed a new direction. She re-trained as a horse photographer and now works across Lancashire taking striking portraits of owners with their horses. Lisa said the joy of presenting clients with pictures of their beloved animals had helped her come to terms with the sadness of her loss.
‘My new career is helping to keep my mind occupied and it’s such pleasurable work seeing people bonding with their animals on film and the joy they display when they see the results,’ she said.
Lisa had always been interested in photography and, as a youngster, turned her bedroom into a darkroom. She trained over three months and invested in the specialist equipment. Her experience working with horses, being able to calm them down for grooming and teaching people how to ride, is proving invaluable in capturing the perfect poses.
These aren’t straightforward portraits. ‘They have to be planned exactly like a fashion shoot with three outfit changes. The aim is to make it glamorous so it could involve ball gowns, for instance, and I can arrange stylists for make-up and hair. We can also look at different locations.’
She works across Lancashire and sets shoots in beaches, cornfields, woodlands and stables. She can also give clients advice on how to develop relationships with their horses based on mutual trust and respect. All of which is good experience for her photography
Her clients are almost exclusively females who often like to be pictured wearing the kinds of elegant outfits more usually associated with a ball than a paddock.
After a two-hour shoot during which she takes around 400 pictures, clients are invited to watch a private slideshow of the best 60 images. They can then choose to buy fine art albums, wall-mounted and desktop acrylics, box frames, portrait boxes and coffee table books. Prices start from £95.
‘The secret is having patience and lots of it,’ she said. ‘Understanding the anatomy of a horse is also a great advantage. It also helps to know when to get out of the way!
‘I only wish I’d had the sort of photo album that I can give to my clients. It would have been the perfect way to remember such an amazing horse as Spirit.’
You can see some more of Lisa’s work at www.horsephotographeruklancs.co.uk