When asked where her love for horses stems from, Toronto-based travel photographer Manuela Stefan would say that it’s in her blood. Growing up, Manuela spent her summer holidays in a small mountain village of rural Romania, and is still told stories by her father of bareback riding through forests and rivers.
After losing connection with this world and focusing on her life in the city for some time, Manuela has now come full circle, brought back to her roots through photography. She has since completed personal equine projects in France, Romania, Jamaica, Mexico, Canada and the American West, with her most recent one being The Gros Ventre River Ranch of Jackson, Wyoming.
Remotely located in the Teton National Forest with the Gros Ventre River running right through its grounds, the ranch offers spectacular views over the Grand Teton mountains, with many people returning to its splendor year after year. After being operated as a Dude Ranch for 30 years, current owners Karl and Tina Weber purchased the property in 1987 and have been enhancing it ever since.
Prior to taking off to Jackson for the Western Design Conference, Manuela learned of Gros Ventre River Ranch which sparked an urge to experience the “real ranch lifestyle.” The Webers were happy to oblige, and Manuela spent the next week in a wilderness paradise, finishing with beautiful images of which have been picked up by various specialized equine blogs.
Manuela elaborated on the cowboys she has had the pleasure of shooting, of whom live “rich and inspiring lifestyles”:
“Cowboys are fascinating people. Many are poets, musicians and artists. I think it all comes from their special way to connect with everything there is. Nature. Animals. Something we should all aim to experience, at least from time to time. Despite their days of intense, hard work, they somehow find the time to sit down by the fire and share wonderful tales.”
Manuela will continue to migrate towards horses as that is where her passion lies:
“These projects allow me to go for what truly triggers my inspiration. I usually come back energized, with more creative ideas. I feel replenished and this reflects in everything I do. Being inspired is essential to the type of work that us, photographers, do. it is not a permanent state and we can’t take it for granted. We need to know ourselves well enough in order to pursue exactly the things that lead to this very special state. It’s like plugging ourselves into a different sort of power.”