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Born in Paris and now based in the south of France, Greg decided to jack in his career in logistics to take up photography full time in 2011. A brave move for anyone, but Greg felt that following his heart was the only way to find true happiness in life. His lifelong passion for photography and drawing, coupled with his love of horses, merged to create something beautiful.
Influenced by his father, who loved quarter horses, he took up riding aged 17 before buying his own horse when he was 20 years old. The horse was to be his first photographic model. What began as a few riding lessons soon developed into an interest in trail riding, then Reining.
In 2001, he travelled to Texas to learn the ins and outs of the reining industry before returning home to continue learning for the next decade.
Since then, Niro has been the official photographer for Salon du Cheval in Paris 2015, a number of NHRA France events and had press access for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy 2014.
Greg tells us that there are different challenges to this. "A static horse is difficult because there are a lot of things to monitor, including the positions of the ears, eyes and legs.
Capturing a moving horse is not difficult but, like anything, requires practice”. His biggest challenge is getting the right light at the right moment.
“You have to know your camera very well, and need good material to create good light,” he advises. “Working outside is easier, but you have to choose the location carefully and have in mind, ‘what kind of picture would I like to have?”
Meeting people, horses and traveling are a huge bonus to Niro’s profession, he admits. His favorite memory was photographing the NRHA European Affiliates Championship in 2014. It was this that ultimately landed Greg his first cover of the American magazine, “Reiner.” A huge accomplishment for any photographer.
Niro’s photos have been featured in many magazines including “Equiwest,” “Cheval Magazine” and “Grand Prix also writes for “Newestern,” the French reining magazine. As you might expect, the job requires worldwide travel, meaning Greg, who also works as a graphic designer, is often away from his family and any free time is limited.
The days are long and hard, and often his day starts at 7am., installing equipment and preparing for the day ahead. He then photographs every participant in an event, often finishing at 11pm.
As well as shooting, Greg often doubles as a rider and participates in the shows he covers. He rides in the first class and requests to be drawn first in the order. Afterwards, he immediately jumps off and grabs his camera to shoot the rest of the riders.
One of the biggest challenges he faces is capturing the “Two Hearts” connection between horse and rider.
“Sometimes you feel that horse and rider are like one heart, and sometimes not at all,” Niro said. “Sometimes you need to be lucky, but you always have to keep an eye to get the perfect picture of both horse and rider.”
...inspired by Yann Arthus Bertrand’s pictures of horses all over the world, Niro aims to compile a book with portraits of professional French reiners, called The “French Reining Project”.
Each photo will feature riders in their show apparel with no horses. Niro said meeting the riders at home, away from the stress of the competition scene has been a “great adventure".
“It will be a new approach to Reining, aiming to promote the discipline in a different light,” Niro said.
“I love my job, I love horses, meeting people, travelling, and I am extremely happy that I have the chance to live my two passions.”
To give up everything, take a leap of faith and follow your heart - sometimes that shot in the dark can bring everything you dreamt of.
Text by Rachel Gilbert & Paul Stretton/FEI
Images by Greg Niro
Check out more of Greg’s amazing images over at www.gniro-photography.com