Thanks to a memorable moment back when she was 13, Sara Mastriforte realized her calling. “I had a fascination for photography from an early age. Knowing this, my mother encouraged me to watch a fashion shoot that was happening in the street where we lived,” the polo photographer narrates. “I was incredibly shy, and whilst I watched, I stood about as far back as was possible. The photographer, a man called Steve Bicknell, who encouraged me to come closer, got me involved by asking me to hold a large silver reflector. And that was that.. I was completely bitten by the photography bug!”
While through the years she’s juggled her time between working for PR and snapping away behind her lens, it seems like this passionate woman is destined to capture unforgettable images of wonderful moments. Little did she know that after marrying her husband, sports photographer Neil Egerton, a major adventure awaits her photography journey.
With Neil specializing in polo, Sara was introduced to the sport as she tagged along with her husband to numerous matches. The eventual frustration set in, and next thing she knew, this adrenaline-filled field took her breath away. “I didn’t for one minute think that I could realize the magic of his images,” she notes, “But I wanted to see if I could do better than where I was at.”
Sara continues. “I was already passionate about the sport. And it made sense, with my husband’s guidance as well as having a home near to the plethora of polo fields in and around Sotogrande, to focus my photographic attention on this exciting sport.”
She only began her polo photography journey in May 2020, with her newly-purchased Canon EOS 5D mk III and a selection of lenses on hand. But this didn’t limit her creativity—if anything, it only fueled her fire to experiment and be on the lookout for her next best shot.
She recalls the first polo player she photographed, Pato Neves, whom she owes a debt of gratitude. “I cheekily plastered that image (which I thought was terrific!) all over social media, tagged him in and he ticked the like box,” the lenswoman shares. “In retrospect, it wasn’t as terrific as I initially thought, but his kindness did wonders for my confidence and I carried on.”
From there, the photographer is almost always present for games and, here, she managed to build a great support network. Despite her shy nature, the welcoming polo community embraced her, and the warmth further elevated her love for the sport. “I am a relative newcomer to the sport, but I have been made to feel so welcome across the board. Standing in front of someone taking their photo would not ordinarily have been my comfort zone. But the warmth that I have been shown by everyone has enabled me to come out of that zone and take the kind of pictures I do,” she happily says.
The shutterbug also loved the fact that polo is a sport that looks beyond one’s gender, and feels incredibly grateful to meet like-minded females in the field. Sara notes, “Many of my closest female friends come from the polo community. Strange, you might think, as I haven’t been around polo for that long, but I have got to an age where I am much more discerning about people and there is a bond of commonality with a lot of women in the polo world.”
This unifying force, she believes, comes from the true sense and feeling of equality. “Female players, grooms, supporters, and more are as admired, loved, and respected as their male counterparts,” Sara muses. “A woman’s skill, bravery, determination, hard work and pony care are recognized in their own right, not because of sex.” She also points out that the mutual love and respect for horses bring together everyone in the sport.
Naturally, she draws inspiration from the crowd as well, no matter what their role is. She also looks up to fellow polo photographers like Pablo Ramirez, Helen Cruden, and, of course, her husband.
Describing her style as more “reportage”, Sara seeks unexpected moments that tell a full story. “Primarily, it’s that you never know what is going to happen, what photographic opportunities will arise,” this polo lady explains what makes this passion exciting for her. “From the weather to the state of the field, from the nature of the ponies to the people who are present on the day, there are so many variables that as a photographer, you can never predict what will be on the memory card(s) at the end of the day.”
Take, for example, some of her favorite tournaments to shoot. There’s the Torneo Internacional de Polo at Sotogrande—her “home turf”—where the nice weather and presence of some of the greatest players in the world afford her great shots. Given the chance, Sara would also be glad to photograph any tournament at Ayala. “The fields and the backdrop are, quite simply, nirvana. The late afternoon/early evening light has a warmth to it that, coupled with the avenues of palm trees and gently sloping banks, creates magic in photographs,” she dreamily states. Southeast Asia, Czech Republic, and the USA would also be wonderful places to shoot, Sara offers.
“But when it comes to atmosphere, it is hard to beat any tournament organized by Iridike Polo at Puente de Hierro!” the photographer says. “From the European Women’s Tour to the various kids tournaments and everything in between, these tournaments are fun. Competitive? Yes—sometimes, there is no one more competitive than an eight-year old, with a mallet in hand, but at the same time relaxed and fun!”
But for now, Sara relishes in a favorite photograph she took throughout her almost three years in the polo community. Having snapped several images of polo player Alicia Gariador, both as a groom and now as a formidable player, she’s proud of this one photo where Alicia is scoring for the BP Polo Team, in the Torneo Internacional de Polo.
“She is beyond gutsy and reads the game with a precision that defies her age,” Sara remarks. “It was a stunning goal, in the beautiful evening light in Sotogrande, delivered with Alicia’s usual flare and which set the tone for a great win for BP over Aguilas.”
As excited as she is in telling her story, there’s much more thrill in the coming year with big plans—from photographing more games to publishing and book and, perhaps, an exhibition to boot!