One of the perks of portraiture
A few weeks ago, I met with a five year old Haflinger named Steppen.
I painted Wred, Steppen’s predecessor, a few years ago before he passed away, and now it was Steppen’s turn to sit for me.
My interview process involved spending time with my subject at his stables…
...as well as photographing him at a dressage show.
Here, Steppen is having his hair braided and stealing a little refreshment from his trainer as he patiently allows his stylist to work.
His rock star mane had to be tucked away like this so that the judges could more easily see his neck and evaluate his movements.
Steppen is no diva. He’s always sure to thank those that help him shine with a kiss and smile.
And this is maybe my favorite part of his gratitude: the blissful lip wiggling he does when his scritch spot is being scratched!
Having very little experience with horses in general and dressage in particular, I was struck by the complexity of the sport.
It’s a whole different culture, complete with nuanced traditions and conventions that add up to a language that can seem impenetrable to an outsider.
It reminded me that each of us has this in us. Our lives are intricately woven cloths, impossible for a stranger to unravel without a good deals of observation. Sure, the differences may be more subtle between me and my human subjects than between me and my horse ones, but they’re still there. And I love that my job means that I’m often invited into the secret lives of everyone else.