On why I won’t be taking photos at OSF…

I’m writing to you all with an update that I’m disappointed to have to post. Instead of sharing the Old Salem Spring Shows with you fully, I am prohibited from taking photos at the show. As much as I dislike controversy and have struggled over the decision to share this post, I feel I have an obligation to explain what has transpired to my followers.

It’s unfortunate that our sport often makes decisions based on the mantra, “This is the way things have always been done.” I hope that in the future, the tight-knit horse show community sheds its politics in favor of building trust and fostering innovation, but Old Salem’s recent decision makes me question whether that is a realistic dream.

I would also hope this sport welcomes young people who aspire to start businesses, write blogs, and devise new ways to benefit the equestrian community. I understand that many shows might not have the processes in place yet to handle hybrid businesses, like a blog, born out of a social media generation and where they fit in with the existing vendor and media structure. I’m also aware of how the photography business has been affected by technology. However, I believe encouraging competition, new business models, and creative divergence from the norm can be positive for our sport as a whole. On the other hand, bullying young people and focusing on their mistakes instead of mentoring them is what will drive talent away, keep us stuck behind the times, and leave us wondering why businesses are failing to adapt to the changing needs of a contemporary horse show audience.

The events that led to my being able unable to photograph at Old Salem are as follows:

–       I was available to do some photo shoots off-site during the week while I was in NY for OSF. However, I had a few people reach out to me regarding also taking photos on the show grounds. I responded to those interested in having me take pictures of them at the show, in addition to a photo shoot, that it was something that I would try to accommodate, despite it not being a focal part of my business. I didn’t make any concrete plans to proceed with anyone who reached out to me. On Wednesday, April 15th, I received a specific email asking for my involvement in a special birthday gift for a woman’s cousin that included a photo shoot and potentially pictures of her at three shows – OSF, Devon and Lake Placid. I replied on Thursday, the 16th, and said I could try to accommodate this special request.

–       The day after my reply (Friday, April 17th), I was contacted by the official photographer of these three shows and informed that there are restrictions on providing photos to someone at these shows. I was being informed of this because the official show photographer had a copy of the email from the day before. After the rules were made clear to me, I communicated that I was not interested in pursuing show photography at these shows or requests on the show grounds, but wanted to be there to cover it on my blog. Since that conversation on the 17th,, I have not had any communications or offers for photo requests.

–       Because I only wanted to take pictures at Old Salem for my blog, I contacted the show on Tuesday, April 21st requesting a media credential to do this, which I was granted later that day. I went to extra lengths to make sure they knew that despite the fact that I have done off-site photo shoots, I was aware of the rules while covering the show for my blog and would not conduct business on the show grounds. I was told that this was understood and I was welcome to attend in this capacity.

–       Over a week later, on Thursday, April 30th, I received an email stating that my reply to the show photography request from the birthday gift e-mail on the 16th had been sent to management and I was asked to explain it. I clarified in great detail the chain of events that had transpired—that I had only offered it as a requested addendum to a special photo shoot request. Upon realizing there were restrictions to doing it, I told them that I had immediately ceased the practice and had no further discussions with the person or anyone else about doing it, and that I had then applied for the media credential specifically with the knowledge that I was prohibited from selling show pictures. I offered to sign a legally binding release that I would not be selling photos or soliciting business, and I also provided management with copies of all of my e-mails.

–       I was informed later that day in a response that while I was welcome to attend and cover the show for my blog, I was now prohibited from taking any pictures at the show. I was told that the reasoning was that they had to honor the partnership between show management and the official photographer.

I do not want to be a horse show photographer. I want to develop my blog and cover and promote horse shows in a way that goes beyond traditional press releases and focuses on what we as equestrians really want to read and look at in a fast-paced modern world that has us riding with our iPhones tucked into the pockets of our breeches. I also want us as equestrians to develop a deeper connection with horse shows and brands – something more meaningful than just pictures of horses and riders in the ring, or pictures of product. This is the kind of post that I love to share.

I can’t wait to see you at Old Salem, just without a camera in tow. I’m also looking forward to free time at the show to meet more of you and discuss what you’d like to see on Meg At going forward, whether that is photos or writing. As always, please feel free to e-mail me if you’ll be at the show this Thursday through Sunday and would like to say hi.

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