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Sherry Cervi her stallion, Dinero

Sherry Cervi her stallion, Dinero

Sherry Cervi is featured in the May 2009 issue of Western Horseman. The opening page “double-truck” image and one of her sitting by her tack room are my photographs. The images included here are personal favorites.

     I was contacted by Western Horseman late last year to photograph national award winning barrel racer Sherry Cervi. I met with her and WH journalist Melissa Cassutt the night before the sessions to get to know Sherry a bit as I’d heard much about her and her family (they live about 15 minutes just west of me) but had not yet met her. Sherry is a lovely, talented, and very compassionate gal who has lived through the tragedy of loosing her  husband Mike Cervi Jr. in 2001. Her love and passion for animals is evident in the companion animals who surround her, including her horses, and in the way she speaks of animals in her life currently and who’ve graced her life previously. A mature, bright young woman, she can be very serious yet has Painted Ponies lining her shelves and lights up when her French Bulldog, Frannie, jumps into her lap. We exchanged hugs and smiles and I said I’d be bright and early the next am to start.

     Having yourself and your horses ready for a pre-dawn photography session is not easy and truthfully I often don’t get the light I desire for my clients in these sessions as they race to finish up the fly-wipe applications and last minute make-up touch-ups. Hopefully they’ve been kind to their horse and given them a breakfast snack about an hour earlier so they aren’t too ancy. So when I showed up about 1/2 hour pre-dawn and did my last minute equipment checks, I was surprised to look through my truck window and see not only the WH writer but also Sherry, a friend to assist, and two horses ready to go! The marks of a pro evident in the way she moved in the pre-dawn light led me to admire a woman who works hard for her success. Moving out to a field to photograph her the second the sun peeked over the Santa Catalinas, as her Palomino stallion PC Frenchmans Hayday (“Dinero”) had many of his “groupies” in the barn calling out for him. Not difficult to get him to perk his ears toward the other horses, although a bit challenging to get him to stand still. He is one of those 15.2 hand horses who present as 17 hand horses, standing as a stunning frame to Sherry’s own considerable height.

Sherry Cervi with Jeffrey and friends
Sherry Cervi with Jeffrey and friends

     Once back at the stable area, I photographed Sherry in various locations including up on the hay bales with her very friendly barn cats. The night before, I’d asked Sherry: “I know you’ve been photographed hundreds of times. What would YOU enjoy most, personally, that would show who you truly are?” She thought about that and answered that she’d love to have a photograph with her and her animals. Not the brilliant, dynamic image of her racing barrels or the sun-kissed portrait of her looking like a model…she wanted a true image of her love of her critters. The image included here is the realization of that desire. Here Sherry sits in her Mother’s backyard with her mini horse and mini donkey and her new 13 week old addition to the family, a cuter than cute pot-bellied pig named Jeffrey. Although I have hundreds of images of Sherry from the morning and late afternoon session, ranging from classic to charming, this is one of my true favorites of the day.

You can see more images of Sherry on my website, PhotographyByFaith.com, and on pages 94/95 and page 98 of the May 2009 issue of Western Horseman Magazine.

PS: As an interesting side note, Sherry is part of the Potter family who own a ranch in Marana, AZ and are part owners of Ocean Spray Cranberries. When I mentioned the Potter Ranch to my husband, he knew of them as he comes from WI where they have their cranberry farm and one summer long ago he worked in their cranberry bogs…says it was one of the best times of his life. Small world, mmm?

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Melissa Farlow with Gila Herd

Melissa Farlow with Gila Herd

Two years ago I was photographing Mustangs in South Dakota at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMP). One herd there in particular has my heart and that herd is the Gila Herd. Spanish Duns and Grullos (and Grullas), this herd comes from Gila Bend, AZ. When the BLM was going to eradicate the herd, the ISPMB took the last remaining 33 horses and moved them to the conservancy in SD. I love all horses yet this herd has transcended all boundaries and allowed me to integrate in ways that I treasure. There are so many stories, some of which I’ll be posting here in my blog.

     This picture  is of National Geographic photographer Melissa Farlow, who spent five days with me at the ISPMB. She had left her camera and tripod for a few moments and when she turned around they were surrounded by curious bachelor stallions. When she went to “rescue” her equipment, they decided to check her out as well. A bit uncomfortable at first, when I told her that they were just curious and not going to “eat her” she started laughing and I got this image. Melissa is like me and much prefers to be behind the camera instead of in front of it, yet she really enjoyed this image. How could you not? Great camera gear, beautiful inquisitive mustangs, and a smile as bright as sunshine. When Melissa’s photography was featured in the February 2009 issue of National Geographic with an article on wild horses, the image above was published on page 152 with a short bio piece on Melissa.

A New Friend, photograph by Melissa Farlow
A New Friend, photograph by Melissa Farlow

Something I’ve enjoyed about “sharing photography space” with professional, experienced, confident photographers is their lack of competitive nature when “playing with others”. Mostly, they seem to be in competition with their own work…striving to be better on every shoot. Melissa and I prefer to be alone when we photograph and I wondered how we work together for five days since we’d just met. It was a joy to be with her. We respected each others space and at the same time pointed out opportunities for each other, as well as keeping each other in our “sights” when a moment occured that we could photograph for the other (such as the image above). I’ve included one of her photographs of me here. She has proven to be an inspiration and source of generously given advice. She and I keep in touch and I hope to photograph with her again sometime.

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