Thrilled to have been asked by Suzanne Sease of A Photo Editor to say a few words and show my Rodeo Girls photo essay!
You can see + read it here .
Growing up in ‘flyover country’ we were surrounded by the largest expanse of tall prairie grass in the world. These are the Flint Hills, outside of Topeka, Kansas. The wind moves through the tall grass, bending it and pushing it in waves, and it feels like you are standing on the edge of a vast green ocean.
My love for environment has always sparked my creativity, and I’m so grateful to have grown up in a family and a place with no preconceived notions of what I could or could not do. My family and close friends have always encouraged to follow my dreams, so many years ago, I moved from Topeka, Kansas to NYC. Lately, I find myself romanticizing my experience of growing up on the prairie. Sometimes it takes leaving a place to realize how much it is a part of who you are.
This Rodeo series was shot in Topeka one late Friday afternoon last fall. I had always been aware of these competitions, though I never had an opportunity to attend one, so once I found out about it, I grabbed my camera and headed out the door with absolutely no idea of what the next two hours would bring. I’m so grateful to have spent that afternoon with these wonderful young women. The contestants were all hopeful and nervous as they prepared for a weekend of competition. Most of them have been riding horses on their family farms and ranches for as long as they could remember and all of them worked really hard to compete there. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and every time I see these photos, I’m reminded of how important it is to follow your dreams.
Whether I am working on a personal project or on assignment, I always strive to make images that are honest and authentic. Photography transcends language and cultural barriers, and my camera gives me the opportunity to share a special moment and energy in a particular space and time. My career as an image maker has allowed me to connect to so many people and unique environments…situations that a young woman growing up on the prairie could only imagine. I’m so fortunate and so happy to do work I love, and I never take it for granted.
Nela in Buenos Aires. Outtake from a beverage campaign I’m working on down in Argentina.
((What you don’t see here is me getting completely mauled by mosquitos on this set lol. Dengue fever anyone?))