Photographer Larry Williams has put the “chrome” in Kodachrome for more than 25 years, capturing memories to last a lifetime.
By Danette Philpot
The signature phrase “Got it!” from noted horse show photographer Larry Williams echoes off the walls surrounding his backdrop. All at once, his subjects’ relax from their poses: the rider dismounts and rolls up her chaps; her fan club files off the magic green carpet with giggles; and dogs jump for joy or find treasures to eat before being scooped up by their masters. All gather around the computer monitor for a sneak-peak at a picture-perfect moment in time, captured by Larry.
With a practiced eye, Larry flips through the digital images looking for the one that’s just right, putting horses and humans in the perfect pose. The larger the crowd, the more difficult the task of getting everyone in sync, with eyes open, smiles on and, for the horses, ears forward. Dad chimes in: “Can you take off my beer belly?” “Can you make me look younger?” Mom adds. “Miracles are extra,” Larry quips, sending a wave of giggles through his customers yet again.
Dreaming of Horses
An ever-present part of the horse show scene, Larry has been capturing images of champions for more than 25 years, but he never dreamed of being a photographer. He did, however, dream of horses. Larry learned to ride aboard mounts belonging to family friends, but it didn’t fully satisfy the hoofbeats that danced across his eyelids each slumber. One morning as a child, a horse trotted out of Larry’s dream and into his suburban Michigan yard.
“An appaloosa mare came down our road one morning. I followed her—I was young, about 9 or 10, still in my PJs and barefoot following this horse—until she let me catch her, and I led her back to the farm where I knew she came from,” Larry said. “The owner asked why didn’t I ride her, and I said it wasn’t my horse and she only had a halter on.”
Family reunions brought Larry closer to horses still—his cousin, Charlene, spurred Larry’s eventual involvement in a 4-H horse club at age 14—and soon the aspiring horseman corralled his own horseflesh on his grandparents’ farm in Holly, Michigan.
“We had spotted Shetland ponies, then grade ponies and horses. Prince was a 12-hand tobiano gelding—he was a cow-kicker when being saddled and I was the only grandkid who was willing to deal with that habit. Later on came Ginger, an overo buckskin mare that guests enjoyed riding around the farm.
“We rode the horses everywhere: we’d trail ride, ride up and down the road, and even over to the Girl Scout camp on the other side of the lake—just everywhere. We used to get in trouble for chasing grandma’s cows.”
Larry’s love of horses lead to a high school job working with a local veterinary clinic. Traveling with the veterinarian, making farm calls and helping animals heal sparked an interest in Larry. After high school graduation, he pursued a goal of becoming aveterinarian by enrolling in Michigan State University’s veterinary sciences program.
Academia, however, removed Larry from the aspect of the horse world he loved the most: interaction. Aspirations of veterinary school were replaced with various jobs within the equine community that brought him closer to the living, breathing root of his passion.
With an eye for quality horses, Larry pursued judging, first as a member of his 4–H judging team and later as a carded judge for the buckskin, pinto and Ponies of the Americas organizations. In addition to weekends spent judging shows throughout the Midwest in the 1970s and ’80s, Larry also found himself on the other side of show management, running events like the Michigan State Fair in Detroit. A jack of all trades and never one to sit idle, Larry also trained horses professionally and had a leather business. In midst of it all, Larry’s “weekday job” was rebuilding and repairing locomotive engines and stationary power generators. His repairs grace many of the engines that power 1,000-foot freighters that still travel on the Great Lakes.
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.