Carol Hofmann Thompson and Judy Richter
THE UNINTENDED HISTORIAN
James Parker (left) has been photographing America’s top horse shows since 1982. Horses and their people have been his only subject. Since 2009, he and his crew have focused on producing The Book for hundreds of clients. Below, he chats with his long-time friend, Equestrian Living’s Betsy Stein.
BETSY STEIN: I think it’s fair to say you’ve become the unintended historian of the horse-show world. It’s interesting to look at the evolution of horse-show photography. What effect has the move from film to digital and video had on recording the history of horse shows? JAMES PARKER: The state of the show photographer and the concept that shows will not have photographers in the very near future are relevant. Our answer to the digital world has been to create a product known as The Book. We photograph our clients during their competitive rounds, but more
importantly, we try to record the story of the relationship between the client and their horses and friends. Clients hire us to follow them on the circuit, and we create a coffee-table book with a metal cover embossed with a chosen picture. Our emphasis is now also on private clients, where they get all the individual photos that they would as a Book client, but they pay a smaller fee. Some people don’t want a book; they just want great photos. For practical reasons, we are sadly close to giving up shooting general exhibitors and only photographing our clients at the shows. We just
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don’t sell enough general photos any more to justify the work required. I’m sure people don’t think of the photographer as documenting history as long as they get the pictures that they want. The reality is that, in the near future, they won’t get quality photos, and that is a disaster for the history of our sport. Personally, I really treasure the old photos I have taken, and I enjoy posting and sharing them. There is a small group of people who really enjoy the historical photos, but sadly, younger riders don’t seem to care. Many have never heard of Rodney Jenkins or Michael Matz. I keep the memory-lane pages on my