Gentle giants

Alex and Kayo Fraser use a draft horse driven wagon to bringing in bales of hay with the help of a group of neighbor children from a field near Dover, Idaho during the summer of 1982.

During the spring of 1982, I was a couple years out of college, applying unsuccessfully for photo jobs all over the country and trying desperately to get my career as a photojournalist out of the starting blocks. 

Mentor Phil Schofield suggested that I find a story to work on and gave me some contact info for National Geographic World. He had some success doing the very same thing and thought I might have a shot if I found the right story.

As luck would have it, friends Alex and Kayo Fraser, and a collection of neighbor kids they had essentially adopted, were just the idea I was looking for. I pitched “How I spent my summer vacation with draft horses” to the magazine and they bit! 

I ordered a brick of Kodachrome that very day and set about documenting a summer of work and play for this makeshift family of horse lovers on the photogenic farm they lived on in Dover, Idaho.

It is hard to overstate how important this small success was to my career. It gave me some much needed confidence, a solid resume piece and a little money, that I used to to help fund a trip to the Missouri Photojournalism Workshop the next year. 

By 1984 I was working for the Idahonian/Daily News in Moscow, Idaho and I have been fortunate to remain employed as a photojournalist ever since.

I am so grateful to Alex and Kayo, Mia, Josh, Mindi and Myra for letting me tell their story. Such fond memories.

The opening spread of “Gentle Giants” in National Geographic World September 1983.
Myra raking hay with a horse drawn windrower in a field near Dover, Idaho. Part of a double truck included with the story Gentle Giants in National Geographic World September 1983.
Last two pages of the story “Gentle Giants” in National Geographic World published September 1983.

Chris Pietsch is the director of photography for Gannett Newspapers in Oregon, The Register-Guard in Eugene and the Statesman Journal in Salem.

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