Archive for the ‘Susan Stories’ Category

My Mom the (digital) Photographer

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

In 1996 Susan was living in Virginia and had just bought her first Macintosh (a G3, I think). She had an Internet connection and email but no web site.

Being the computer geek that I was and wanting to do something for my mom in exchange for the thrilling ride she gave me as a child, I started putting together a web site for her. Not having much in the way of promotional materials I put on my marketing hat and whipped out this bio.

When we first published the web site I can distinctly remember her saying something like: “Horse people will never use the Internet, but if you think it’s a good idea, I’ll send you some pics to post on the site.” The site was an instant success since, back then, it was one of the only sites with more than a few pictures of horses and had very good ranking in the search engines of the day.

I don’t know how much time she spent scanning all those images, but I’m sure it was the better part of a day, maybe two days. At one point I suggested that some day digital cameras would replace film cameras and scanners. She laughed a hearty laugh and said, “I doubt it! I don’t think digital cameras will ever be able to mimic the high quality produced by a really good lens and fine grained film.”

Around 2001, when she moved back to Chicago from Virginia, she also bit the bullet and bought a digital camera. It nearly sunk her financially (and probably a lot of other photographers). She also told me that she wanted to get out of doing horse shows and sell her work through her web site. Chuckling to myself, I agreed that that was a great idea.

We tried and tried to get something going on her web site, but try as we may, it just never materialized, until about a year ago (6 years after buying the digital camera) when she finally started using a shopping cart to sell event pictures on susanthephotographer.com.

Over the years, whenever we’d talk about the site, or about digital photography, although sometimes she would get frustrated with the technology, she never gave up. It’s that stick-to-itivness and reluctance to give in to fear that I’ll always remember best about Mom and it’s in that spirit we present this web site.

Recent Biographies

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Susan Sexton, Short Bio

Susan Sexton has been an equine photographer since 1977, shooting horses in all settings, disciplines and sports. She’s very involved with all aspects of photography, from taking pictures for a vast range of clientele and to teaching all aspects of photography, film to digital, computers and Photoshop.

Over the last thirty-plus years, Susan has specialized in and established a reputation for excellence in shooting classical dressage. Her work has been admired by clients and peers, alike, and has been used extensively within the equine industry.

Her pictures have appeared in many horse magazines in print and online, in books, calendars and in brochures and catalogues advertising all items related to horses, from clothing to tack and horse shoes.  Dover Saddlery, Stateline, Pfizer, Ariat, Continental Airlines, and Purina and many more companies have used her pictures in their advertising over the years.

Top breeding farms and stallion owners in the US hire her to do their stallion photography and design their ads.

Going beyond the field of shooting, she also gives clinics for those who want to learn about photographing horses, she critiques portfolios, gives online courses about photographing the horse, and judges print and online competitions.

Susan currently lives in Cave Creek, AZ.


By Mom’s friend Kimmery:

Susan Sexton’s photographic career spans more than thirty years, while her love of horses spans nearly seventy.  Combining horses and photography was as natural a step as walking, and has been proven over and over again to be an ideal merger.

But this is better said in her words….

A major part of my career – which includes being the official photographer at the 1996 Olympics – has been devoted to photographing stallions. It’s a thrill to have a horse in front of my camera, every single time and in any one venue. They differ from each other, but none are so different as the stallions.  They are prideful, and full of themselves. They know it, and they show it.

When they’re at liberty in the ring with me, they are in tune with what I’m doing, and it becomes a very special event. It’s not that they know what a photo is, but they do know that they are the center of attention, and they turn up the heat. They consider themselves kings of the hills, anyway, and being asked to show off just makes them sparkle even more.

When I’m holding the camera up to my face, almost all of them are looking right down the lens at me as they’re running around the ring.  It’s a little unnerving, but thrilling at the same time. It makes for a very strong contact.

See Lagartijo for an example.

Printing at 11

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

My childhood with Susan (a.k.a. Mom) was, to say the least, unconventional, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I have many fond memories of life as a photographer’s son but perhaps one of my favorites was the night I realized that maybe I could follow in my mom’s footsteps.

Susan started shooting horses at two-day events in the Phoenix area when I was about 11 or 12. She would shoot on Saturdays, process all night (frequently not sleeping), and then sell/shoot on Sundays. On one occasion, we attended a show in Tucson, AZ, about a 3-hour drive from our home in Phoenix. Since it was too far to go in one day, Mom packed her camera and darkroom equipment into the car and headed off, 3 kids in tow, to Tucson.

The car broke down about half way to Tucson. The garage it was towed to said it needed a new engine (and they probably weren’t lying). Running late for the show at a used car dealership on the outskirts of Tucson, Susan managed to buy a new (used) car, somehow convincing the right people she qualified for the loan.

We arrived at the show grounds and Susan started shooting immediately while my sisters and I tooled around the show grounds looking at the horses and people. When the show ended for the day, we all went to the nearest hotel and started unpacking the car and setting up the darkroom. Being a father myself, I suspect that sentence should read: “we all went to the nearest hotel and Mom started unpacking the car and setting up the darkroom while my sisters and I fought over who got which bed.”

Some time around 11 PM, she finished processing the negatives and woke me up so I could start printing. Now, before you think, “OMG, that’s child slavery!”, besides the fact that in most states it’s legal to make your kids work for the company, I WANTED to do the printing and knew what it meant (staying up most of the night). I liked the solitude of the darkroom, the challenge of producing a perfectly printed image. As a young boy it did a lot for my self-esteem…

The first hour or two went fine but somewhere around 1 AM I started getting really tired and wondered if there wasn’t a faster way to get all these pictures printed. Knowing that my mom was technically a good photographer and looking at the excellent exposure of the negatives, I tried just guessing what the exposure times should be for each (rather than running a test, which nearly doubled the work). After a few tried, I realized I could, in fact, guess what the exposure time under the enlarger should be for her images and finished the job an hour or two later.

When she woke up in the morning and found all the pictures printed, she asked what time I went to bed. When I told her that I guessed on exposure times and got to bed early, she congratulated me with a big smile (a chip off the old block?) and off we went to reap our rewards.

My interest in photography continues to this day, but there was something about that moment, about that smile of hers, that will stick with me as one of the high points of my own photography path. For what it’s worth, although we continued to have a darkroom in our bathroom for much of my adolescence and I continued to guess exposure times, the pictures never turned out quite as good as at that show. Must have been the photographer…