Polo photographer Kate Mehmet blends her passions seamlessly—the action- and adrenaline-packed game and the creative and meaningful gesture of capturing moments in film. “Growing up in England, I knew about polo—but I never thought it would become a sport I love to play and photograph,” she begins her story. Once she’s in it, however, Kate discovers that putting polo in the center of it all would lead to the life she ultimately craved for.
The lenswoman is naturally inclined towards snapping wonderful images—her dad and grandad introduced her to the craft. She remembers them capturing their family’s day-to-day life and vacation memories, teaching her the value of those images. It wasn’t until college, though, that Kate took photography seriously. She started with taking photos of snowboarding, which led her to take further action photography courses. She studied at the High Cascades Summer Snowboarding Camp up at Mount Hood in Oregon, where she had the opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best snowboarding photographers in the US and Canada.
Then, a volunteering opportunity at a local equine rescue came, and it all changed from there. Kate recalls, “I started to document each horse and their unique story with my camera to help increase adoptions and bring awareness to horses in need. I fell deeply in love with this process and have since grown my passion into my career.”
From there, she continued to photograph at the equine charities, polo practices, and tournaments, as well as working with local equestrians of all disciplines to share their stories and their special relationships with horses. Polo also caught on to her—eventually joining Bend Polo Club when she moved to the area. “I’ve been involved in the club ever since, and I played in my first full season two years ago,” Kate shares. “We put down the polo mallets to trail ride in the winter but play polo from April to September. I love this sport and make time to take lessons and play multiple times a week, and I travel around the pacific northwest to play in tournaments with my horse Bubs.”
She describes her work as natural, simple, expressive, and genuine, focusing on the beauty and grace of each unique horse she photographs. Looking up to fellow women photographers like Phillipa Davin, whose fine art portraits inspire her, Irina Kazardi with her powerful polo lifestyle images, and Erin Hogue serving as a big influence for her, Kate is learning the ropes of perfecting the craft.
“I love the creative avenue photography provides me and the amazing people and horses it enables me to meet and work with,” she tells POLO LADY about what she cherishes the most in her field. “The equestrian lifestyle is unique. Despite the differences that separate us through disciplines, one thing connects us all: the love for the horse. I feel honored to document the bond that we share with our equine partners, to tell each story through imagery and capture memories that last a lifetime.”
When asked about her favorite project so far, the shutterbug narrates her experience the previous summer. “Last summer, I began to document our horses during fire season. We experienced a summer of drought, fires, and smoke In Central Oregon and the Pacific NorthWest. With friends evacuating their homes and polo ponies in Portland and Spokane, it made us focus on our Emergency Preparedness Plan and how to keep our horses safe if a fire broke out here.” She went on, “I wanted to document this period and the impact of climate change in my region by taking a series of photos of our herd as we checked on them regularly for any complications of smoke inhalation. It was memorable to increase awareness of the situation and to remind people to have a plan.”
Although she’s truly fallen into this lifestyle, Kate is also a lot more other things. When she’s not behind her camera, she works as a Physical Therapist at her local hospital. You may also find her at the barn doing chores, riding and playing polo, exploring the outdoors or spending time in her airstream with her husband and their Siberian Husky, Luka. “We have spent many a polo tournament camped out on the side of the field in our airstream with good friends,” she offers.
If there’s anything that Kate learned while basking in the polo and equine photography, it’s that understanding the horse comes first. “Light, location, and position are incredibly important to create beautiful, memorable images while not interfering with horse and rider during competition or a match. Horses are always moving, and the other greatest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of patience of going with the flow and meeting the horse where they are in that moment,” the polo enthusiast comments.
Right now, with visual media expanding in equine sports, Kate is keen on experimenting with more video arts to capture relationships and action in the future. She’s also looking into shooting more horse portraits and lifestyle images on film.
As this polo lady continues to venture on a fulfilling journey, Kate wants to pay it forward and empower fellow ladies, whether it’s in photography or polo. “I thrive to inspire women to be whoever and whatever they want to be. In equine sports and on the polo field, we can be equal and the divide is ever decreasing,” she muses.
As such, her upcoming projects involve the participation of the lady crowd. “My future projects include highlighting the strong, talented, and driven community of women within equestrian sport. I aim to empower women through art and to bring us all together through a shared experience,” Kate proudly says.
“I also plan to support the animal that makes our passions possible—the horse—by donating a portion of sales of fine art prints to local equine non-profits. My goal is to make a positive impact on the livelihood of these incredible four-legged partners in more ways than one,” the polo photographer ends.
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Mariel Abanes is the Managing Editor of POLO LADY Magazine.