Looking through the lenses of Stephanie Hafner!
For equestrian photographer Stephanie Hafner, work is an abiding passion.
When you try to make your hobby and transform it into a profession, you never expect that the amount of satisfaction will be everlasting. There are always chances where the things you love to do might not be sufficient for you as a career. But for Stephanie, who never thought to become an animal photographer, photography helped her to get through a very difficult time in life and then she felt natural and right to capture her love for the dogs and horses in the pictures. Stephanie was just 10 when she started taking her riding lessons and since then has been an active rider. Horses have fascinated her and she always wanted to ride the ponies, even though there wasn’t any rider in the family. And being able to ride and having met different horses has surely left an imprint on her. She believes them to be her teachers, partners and friends. They taught her patience, confidence and courage. They even taught her to look at things differently, to always find new ways, reflect on the actions and adapt to them. She identifies them to be an integral part of her life, without them she might be a different person today.
Photography was one of her hobbies that gave her strength, and horses became a professional part of her life only after she became a self-employed photographer. This even allowed her to travel to different countries such as America or India to photograph the local breeds. And this was all possible because of the horses. She feels grateful at this, as she can combine her hobby and profession. Stephanie has an apprenticeship as a graphic designer, and she gives the credit for having rapid progress in photography to her graphic training and even today her graphical education is reflected in her work. Stefanie regards, “Without my graphic knowledge, I probably wouldn’t be able to create such expressive photos.”
Photography is not an easy profession, sometimes there are shoots that require more precision and concentration. So to get that perfect shot, Stephanie usually doesn't indulge with the idea of getting a perfect picture but she tries to engage with the horse and its character. Yes, good preparation is required so that the owner feels confident and comfortable. While going for a shot she even provides clear and simple instructions so that it is understandable for everyone involved, making the horse ultimately feel elated. The detail about the light, shapes and colors are must. The most important thing that she feels is to get fully engaged with the situation, to adapt to the horses, to work with patience and not to force anything. While shooting, Stephanie finds it essential that in the end the owner says, “That is exactly my horse.” She says, “I want to capture them in a very natural and free way.”
For her, animals are absolutely honest and do not judge you. No matter what you look like or what job you do, animals are there for you and accept you just as you are. She has been taught patience by them. She animatedly tells, “They live in the present and are one with themselves, something I had to learn first as I often wasted a lot of thought on what others might think about me. But in the end it doesn’t matter, because it’s important to be happy and comfortable with yourself.” Her dog Kiba, a white Swiss Shepherd, is always there and makes her laugh with his cheerful nature and even comforts her when she isn’t feeling well. Well! This is what animal love is, surely an everlasting emotion. Stephanie Kiba is the one who made her come into animal photography. He is her best friend and can’t imagine a life with him.
Stephanie is also a part of equestrian sports, she has been more interested in (classical) dressage than in others, though never had intentions of big competitions. This has made her move towards natural horsemanship, ground work, circus exercises and so on. When talking about her profession, she says, “Actually, I had never planned to become a photographer or horse photographer, but to continue working as a graphic designer after my apprenticeship. But sometimes life has other plans and even though this job was never planned, I am very happy that I can do it today, because I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful job.” Life is surely unpredictable, and this is the reason why Stephanie tries to live more in the present. All that matters is to enjoy the present and be grateful for what one has!