Kelly Jay: Discover The World Of Wild Horses Through Photograhy

I like the way Kelly Jay’s photos give an insightful look into the mustang’s way of life. The sway of the mane, two horses looking straight at the camera, or a horse grazing in a patch of flowers give a unique perspective into these disappearing horses. But, don’t take it from me, Kelly’s wonderful images speck for themselves!

Kelly Jay

Location: Dugway, Utah

Website, Facebook, Twitter


Written by Kelly Jay

I moved to Dugway, Utah from Indianapolis, Indiana in September 2005. I saw the mustangs for the first time in 2006 and immediately fell in love. I am not a professional photographer and at the time only had a Nikon 35mm camera. I was lucky enough to take some amazing photos of these mustangs so I upgraded to a longer lens. When my parents came to visit me from Indiana in 2008 I took them out to see the mustangs and a pair of stallions began fighting right in front of us! I took one of my all time favorite pictures that day and it was after I developed the film that I decided my life would not be complete unless I bought a digital camera. Since then, I have spent any extra money and any extra time on the mustangs.
All of my photos are all of the Onaqui Herd in the West Desert of Utah.
There are close to 250 horses in the herd. The last time they were rounded up was in 2011. Since then, the mares of the herd been treated with PZP using darts. It isn’t traumatizing to them like the barbaric helicopter roundups, and if this controls the population growth in the herd then the BLM will never have to use roundups again!
I admire and appreciate these animals more than I can describe. Their strength and beauty and live of family is so inspiring to see. I hope these mustangs make you as happy as they make me.

TFS: Thanks for joining us on #equinearthour, Kelly! Would you tell us a bit about yourself? 

KJ: The herd I photograph is the Onaqui herd and is in the West Desert of Utah. I’ve been following them now for almost 11 years.This is in northwestern Utah and this herd has close to 250 horses in it.

TFS: How long have you been around horses? Did you always plan on making a career in the the horse industry? 
KJ: I did not! I saw the wild horses during a drive in the desert and I was in love from that moment on!
TFS: When did you first start photography? Do you/your family have an artistic background?

KJ:  I starting taking pictures of my family and nature when I was younger than 10. Photography is the ONLY thing I am artistic in! I like taking natural pictures without a lot of editing. I love to find color in the desert. I hope my love of these wild ones show in every picture.

TFS: Would you tell us more about winning the Wild Horse Poster at the EQUUS Film Festival?
KJ: I was lucky enough to be one of 5 artists to win the contest. My image was chosen for a wild horse rescue. I got to go to NYC and meet amazing artists and filmmakers who all love horses.

TFS: How did you first get involved with mustangs? What do you like most about them?

KJ: I met the herd in 2005 and didn’t know about roundups or slaughter or anything until 2011. Once I found out I became more of an advocate for the wild ones. I love their nature, their spirit and their absolute love of family. They are strong and determined animals who survive in harsh terrain.I admire them and am in awe of them every time I see them even after 10 years.

TFS: Any future shows/exhibits? 
KJ: Not that I know of right now. It costs so much to have high quality prints made for shows. And working two jobs doesn’t leave me much time off. I still print work for people who want it, though. 😊 Being out with the herd soothes my soul and gives me such peace. I wish everyone could experience it.

TFS: Are there any artists/people that inspire you with your art, or that you admire?

KJ: Marion Tubiana, Carolle Beaudry and Marie Josee Tougas are all amazing equine artists I met in NYC. Mustang Meg, Dirk Johnson, and Canadian photographer Duane Starr are all favorites of mine.

TFS: Any wise words for other artists?

KJ: Do what you love and your passion and heart will show in the work. Also, do it for love and not for money or fame or notoriety. You can’t fake passion or love for your subject.

TFS: Is there a medium that you have not worked in but would like to?

KJ: I’d  like to do collections of certain family bands or horses from birth. I can’t draw or paint so photography is IT for me! If love to do more black and white work. And show them growing up, getting kicked out of the herd and fighting for their own family.

What are the ways you find most useful for promoting your photographs?

KJ: I am horrible at self promotion! These are my first tweets ever in life and I am slow with social media. I have many FB followers who love this herd and all wild horses so that is hugely useful in spreading the plight of the wild horses everywhere. I’m more interested in shining a light on the fate of wild ones than I am in promotion my photos. I want people to love the photos, secondary to falling in love with the mustangs.

TFS: Where are some of the places that you have photographed? Any bucket-list places?

KJ: Bucket list places are Toroweap Point at the Grand Canyon and anywhere in Australia. I used to live at the Grand Canyon and took lots of 35mm photos back in 1985. Toroweap Point is a MUST!

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kelly! Looking forward to seeing your new photos.

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