Elizabeth Jane Lazenby (known as Jane, or Janey to her friends) is a freelance photographer based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She works across a number of genres, but specialises in equine photography, fine art and workshops. Jane’s work reveals her extensive knowledge and understanding of horses, which leads to truly stunning images. I spoke with Jane to find out more about her work.
Hi Jane, thanks so much for talking to us. How did you get into photography and what made you decide to become a photographer?
My Dad actually got me into photography as a teenager and taught me manual settings on his Nikon 35mm. He was very creative – he had his own little developing room at home and shot a lot of architectural work. I was always interested in photography, but I’d always wanted to be an artist when I grew up.
I did an art degree in 1988 but unfortunately discovered I was allergic to oil paint fumes and ended up in hospital with a collapsed lung! So I had to work in isolation and I started using a lot of photography in my art. I took lots of self-portraits, working with colour and shadow, and looking at the effects of light.
Before I graduated in 1992 my Dad suddenly passed away. I threw my degree show up on the wall and I came home to look after my Mum. A few months later, my old horse gave birth to our first foal that I’d paid for with a painting, and she became my long-term muse.
I set up business as an equine artist, but people kept coming to me with awful photographs to work from. So I got my camera out to take decent photos to work from as a reference for my painting. In the meantime, my art was taking off and I had a big solo show in Dubai, exhibited in the Mall Galleries and Christy’s in London, as well as getting paintings into a Royal Collection.
I started to teach myself Photoshop and improving my skills to create images closer to what I wanted to paint. And then clients started wanting to order photographic prints instead of paintings, which made me realise I was missing a trick! I was still shooting on film but switched to digital in 2006 when I was pregnant with my daughter. Digital was all so instant and I learned so much on Photoshop.
I’ve been working primarily as a photographer for the past 10 years, running photo workshops for the last 5 years and I also teach adult education part time in photography and fine art. I also shoot weddings, events and portraits. I always wanted to paint like my photos and take photos like my paintings, so my final images, whatever media I use, are united in style and colour.
What kit do you use and what would you say are your essential accessories?
I mainly shoot with a Canon EOS 5D MkIII and 70-200mm f2.8 L lens (known as the horse lens in my world!).
My backup is a Canon EOS 7D MkII, which I think is one of the best natural light cameras, although the 5D is exceptional in low light. I’ve also got a nifty fifty – the Canon 50mm f1.4 and a really nice 35mm f1.2, which is lovely for detail work.
I use a Pixapro Citi 600 flash and their TTL TCM trigger, which is the most useful accessory as it works so much out for me! It’s cordless and uses a battery, which makes it ideal for using when out and about around horses. I’ve just completed a video for Pixapro on how to introduce horses to off-camera flash.
I also always carry Lastolite reflectors – a 75cm and 120cm, and use Lastolite backgrounds with the horses.
Because I predominantly shoot horses, I’ve found this fantastic app called ‘All Ears Selfie’, which has about 40 different horse neighs, squeaky noises and even someone chewing a carrot! It really helps to get the horses to prick up their ears at the crucial moment.
Also I always carry wet wipes! Horses tend to slobber everywhere and they’re great for cleaning up their eyes and noses. Wet wipes also put a lovely shine on leather tack.
Tell me more about the photography workshops. They sound fantastic!
I basically get photographers together and go and do amazing stuff! It all started with my horse obsession. I met a guy with the most stunning Andalusian stunt horses (Ben Atkinson) and whilst he was happy for me to shoot them, he understandably wanted paying for his time. So I got together a dozen photographers, we all chipped in and we went off to shoot these horses. It worked so well that Ben and I decided to form a partnership and run days for photographers. It gives Ben a selection of photos to use for publicity and photographers get access to amazing horses performing breathtaking routines.
I’ve now got 4 different workshop partners. Ben was the original and he put me in touch with a lady called Janine Pendlebury-Lee, who has one of the foremost Iberian horse studs in the UK – Pen Llyn Lusitano Stud in North Wales. I started working with her to get photographs of her stallions on the mountains and in the sea.
Another guy in Leicestershire with a trained trick horse contacted me after seeing my shots, he is insured for non-riders to get on the horses, and so I use him for model shoots and themed workshops. Also I was recently contacted by a dressage trainer to do photo days, who lives on an amazing private estate in Wetherby, which is full of picture-perfect landscapes.
I advertise the workshops on my site and via my photographer mailing list. We’ve just done a shoot inspired by Game of Thrones and a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Next year I’ve already booked in a Robin Hood shoot and I’m planning themed Pre Raphaelite shoots as well. Combining models, rearing horses and costumes is proving really popular and gives some really unique images. I’m a hoarder of costumes, as well as making them; I am always on the lookout on eBay for something interesting.
Do you feel you’ve faced any challenges as a female photographer?
I turned up at a big shoot only last month carrying a couple of props and got herded into the stylist’s room! One of the male photographers kept asking what I was doing there and seemed genuinely surprised when I said I was a photographer. I find there’s more animosity online in some of the photography groups I’m in. I’ve got a lot of qualifications and it’s always men who say, ‘who does she think she is?’ One man said I was a snob because I wouldn’t shoot for free!
I have found most support from fellow photographers in Facebook groups and online communities such as Fine Art Photographers UK and Ireland and the amazing female-only SheClicks. I’d rather be in groups which lift each other up than groups that battle egos and locations.
I’m very confident because I’ve taught for so long and I’m using to standing up and talking to a large group. I think this sometimes puts backs up because I’m a strong woman in a male industry. It shouldn’t be relevant that I’m a woman, but it can be.
How do you get inspiration for your shoots and workshops?
My head has another 3000 shoots in it – I’m like a human Pinterest board! I do look at other photographers, art history and I have a very visual imagination, so I find I can think of a whole series of images. Since I lost my horse a couple of years ago, I feel like I have a lot more time, although I do find myself working a 50 hour week. I make a lot of costumes and head collars for the horses – I’m always busy!
I want to enable other people to do what they want to do, and I want to give other people a chance. I’ve definitely got a nurturing side. I do get a lot of satisfaction from helping others and think that you should treat others as you want to be treated yourself. I would hope that my photos show empathy – showing the soul of people and animals rather than what’s on the outside.