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We all have our triggers, things that transport us back to a place or time in our lives. Usually for me it’s a sound or smell, but in this case it’s these images.

Everyone has different aspects to their persona. For myself, there are two very different sides; the one who wears high heels, dabbles in hair and makeup, goes out with the ladies on Saturday nights and hits every waking audition or shoot within 199 miles. Then there is the other side of me, the one that is rarely seen by anyone besides my immediate family. This side of me, is 100% cowgirl at heart.

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I have always had a love for the outdoors. Growing up my parents made it a point for my brother and I to get outside, to enjoy the natural world and all it has to offer. My passion for nature and animals was born in the Rocky Mountains, and it’s been steadily growing ever since.

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My family owns a working ranch and organic chicken farm in the Buena Vista, Colorado. Six horses, three cattle, seven dogs, countless barn cats, a menagerie of water fowl and more then 150 chickens occupy Thunderbird Spirit Ranch at the base of Mount Princeton in the heart of the Arkansas Valley, the banana belt of Colorado.

This summer I had the immense pleasure of shooting on my family’s ranch. Never before has a photo shoot been more grounding; bringing me back to my roots. “Buena Vista” translates from Spanish, meaning “beautiful view,” and this shoot delivered nothing short of just that; from the sweeping mountain views scattered with summer thunderstorms to the historic barn and bunkhouse standing as relics of the property. Luke Gottlieb (aka @victorofvalencia) captured the ranch in all its extraordinary essence like only an editorial and lifestyle photographer can.

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Luke picked up a camera one day after previously graduating college and embarking on a very unalike career path, and thankfully he did. Behind the camera he does more than just take a beautiful picture; his images inspire a narrative similar to that of film rather than just a portrait itself. He tells a tale through photographs, and these images depict the story of my upbringing- my roots and my rock- everything that makes me, me.

I started riding horses when I was seven and it quickly became an addiction. My family always had dogs and cats and various other small animals when I was very young, but from the time I first sat in a saddle I was consistently begging my parents for a horse. On my 12th birthday they made my dreams come true; I got my first horse, Moon.

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Moon and I grew up together. She was just three years old when we brought her home, and man could you tell she still had some philly in her. Moon taught me more about responsibility, hard-work and stubbornness than anything else in my life.

Our herd is now made up of seven beautiful horses. My mother is an avid wild horse advocate and animal rescuer meaning most of our herd, and other animals for that matter, are rescues. The ranch offers vast green pastures, backed by a string of Colorado’s tallest 14ers- The Collegiate Peaks, a few of which I still have yet to climb. The historic barn, built in the 1880s, along with the collection of scattered old buildings on the property give the ranch its character and nostalgic feel. Riding through these fields or walking the historic property, seeing all my furry friends and beauty of the valley, brings me a sense of peace like only home can. When I look at these images, it triggers that very feeling. To have that essence captured through imagery is something that can be cherished for a lifetime. I could be across the globe 20 years from now or sitting at work tomorrow morning, and these pictures would bring me right back to my favorite place and time. After all, home is where your horses are, right?

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These images capture the connection I share with my horses, the ranch and all of its surroundings. They are uninhibited and authentic, just me, existing in my natural habitat. Each one somehow exhibits the side of me that is rarely seen off the ranch, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to display all sides of my genuine self through such an incredible artful medium. An enormous thank you to Luke for capturing these moments and putting it best himself – “I look at this shoot as a testament to the notion that ‘home’ isn’t as far away as you think and who you truly are is always there. You just have to allow it to show up.”

 

Photos and styling by Luke Gottlieb – @victorofvalencia – victorofvalencia.com

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