As an Art Director/ Creative Director over the past 14 years Jamie Baldanza has helped develop some of the most recognizable brands in the world. A horse lover since birth, Jamie quit her job to follow her passion – photographing wild horses all across the Western United States. With a greater outreach from a growing Instagram following, she has been inspired to do even more. Utilizing her talents, Jamie created her own production company that concentrates on bringing animal causes to the public through film & photography. Jamie’s latest project, the docu-series “Wild Lands. Wild Horses” (Formerly called “Taking Back The West”) will help bring awareness to the wild horse cause.
What inspired you to start Wild Lands Wild Horses?
As my Instagram following grew for my wild horse photography and advocacy, I decided that I could do more. Tapping into my years as a creative in the advertising industry I decided to start my own production company that brought animal causes to the public through film and photography. And that is where “Wild Lands Wild Horses” (WLWH) came in. WLWH is an exploratory docu-series traveling across 12 states within 150M+ acres of public lands. It transports you through America’s western landscape and shines a light on the majestic yet politically complicated lives of America’s Wild Horse. The inspiration came from the lack of stakeholders working together for a better solution for our wildlands and our wild horses.
What is truly different about this docu-series is the approach that we take. The wild horse issue is intense, emotional, and layers and layers thick of complicated legislation. WLWH decided to take an unbiased approach when interviewing all stakeholders to our public lands (where our wild horses roam)… because to truly learn, we must talk to EVERYONE.
We have exclusive conversations with scientists, ranchers, government officials, and wildlife advocates, who – despite their differences – all share the same goal: To Keep The West Wild.
In the midst of all this seriousness, we also decided to have fun and bring YOU to the wild to meet the horses and fall in love. We hope by doing this, people will be engaged through love instead of anger and hate.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a photographer and how did you go about pursuing this dream?
In the back of my head, I’ve always loved photography, but never really dabbled in it. I even remember writing an essay in high school how I was inspired to become an equine photographer, but it never really went beyond that. Instead, I studied art direction in NYC in college. However, when I was about 24, I was dating a guy in a band and his shows inspired me to buy a camera. For a while, I got really into live performance photography, but then you know life happens and it stopped. It wasn’t until I moved to NJ and was around horses, I felt inspired again to lift up a camera. As I realized I wasn’t so bad and started gaining an Instagram following for my photos… I quit my job as a Creative Director at an advertising agency to follow my passion – photographing wild horses all across the Western United States. It’s been over 8 years and I have not put my camera down.
Why did you choose wildlife(horse) photography in particular?
I’ve always been drawn to animals. Always, especially ones in the wild. There’s nothing like it, to be in an unknown landscape where jaguars or elephants, and even wild horses call home. And to capture their existence and then share it with the world, to people, who may never be able to experience it themselves, is a gift I am always thankful for. Also with wild animals, you get something different each time. You can not pose them or ask them to stand still, you can not change the light, but instead, you have to hunt the light and hope your animal ends up in it. My favorite is going in with a vision and coming out with something more spectacular than you originally imagined.
Can you tell us about the most memorable wildlife/horse photo you have ever shot and what made it so special?
The most memorable photo of wild horses for me is a battle of two stallions on the horizon line during sunset. It was in McCullough Peaks, WY in July. I was with my co-host Deb Lee Carson and the weather was perfect, the horses were putting on a show, and the sunset was spectacular. It was just one of those nights where everything just felt magical. What was literally less than a second of action, I snapped the shot and at that moment, I had a photo that would stand out for the rest of my life. It even was a finalist in the Weather Channel’s “It’s Amazing Out There” Contest out of 50,000 entries. Definitely a very proud moment for me!
What animal would you most like to capture that you haven’t already?
I’ve photographed wild horses, leopards, lions, elephants, meerkats, coyotes, prairie dogs, elk, and even will be going to photograph Polar Bears in the fall of 2021, but what I haven’t photographed is the Pangolin! I am obsessed. They are so beautiful, but extremely endangered and are some of the most trafficked animals in the world. They look like armored anteaters that can roll into a ball when they feel they are endangered. I encourage everyone to look them up and learn about them!.
How has covid-19 affected the services of Wild Lands Wild Horsesso far? Which ones have gotten better and which ones worse?
Covid really put a dent in our plans. We finished production in early 2020 and hit the film festival circuit in the spring. Even though we’ve won 10 awards that we are extremely proud about, we weren’t able to network and meet people in person. I feel like this really hindered our ability to find the right people to help sell our series to a network or streaming platform. So we decided to release the pilot episode on youtube in hopes the right people will come across it.
Do you have anything exciting on the horizon that you can tell us about?
Yes! I am currently working on a short film in partnership with Skydog Sanctuary about the SAFE ACT (Save America’s Forgotten Equines) which will prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes. We’ve weaved the story of three wild horses who ended up at kill pens and their rescue to a sanctuary to help bring awareness to this issue. And there is a huge surprise at the end!
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
I’ve had two accomplishments that I am most proud of. One is producing, directing and writing the pilot episode of Wild Lands Wild Horses, and the second was after directing my first short film about horse slaughter and sending it to my congressman to watch. To my surprise, his office called me back the next day and let me know they had signed onto an act to help protect them.
When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
I’ve recently had some major setbacks with Wild Lands Wild Horses. It’s extremely hard not to get emotional about something you are so passionate about, and put all your time and energy into it. One major setback with two male producers threw me into a depression and I was ready to give up. But it’s important to realize the end goal, and what the hell you are working so hard to fight for. What we are working on is so much bigger than my feelings. So now, because of this setback, I’m working harder and I’m more determined.
Share two advice for female entrepreneurs.
Listen to your gut and follow your passion. If a project you are working on is born out of love then you will get something meaningful from it. Setbacks are inevitable but necessary to your journey. Don’t get discouraged and fight harder for what you worked so hard for. Second, surround yourself with people who will lift you up and not put you down. When you fill your work and life with positive energy you will go so much further.