Sydney, one of many goats and sheep portrayed in the new book, “Goats and Sheep: A Portrait Farm” by photographer and Langley resident, Kevin Horan.

Sydney, one of many goats and sheep portrayed in the new book, “Goats and Sheep: A Portrait Farm” by photographer and Langley resident, Kevin Horan.

Kevin Horan frames goats, sheep in whole new light

Langley photographer captures the individuality of herd animals

Goat walks into a photo studio. Asks if he can get his portrait done to give to his mom.

“Sorry, kid,” replies the photographer, “You’ll have to wait and follow the sheep.”

What sounds like a bad joke is actually the kernel of an idea that led to the publication of a new photography collection by Kevin Horan called “Goats and Sheep: A Portrait Farm.”

Horan will talk about the book at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 10 at Ott & Murphy Tasting Room in Langley. Published by 5 Continents Editions in Milan, Italy, the 128-page hard cover book sells for $35.

Horan is a “recovering photojournalist” who moved to Whidbey Island from Chicago in 2006 with his wife, Nancy Horan, a best-selling author of historical fiction.

Getting to know his new South Whidbey neighbors he became intrigued with the four-legged variety — sheep, goats, pigs and horses.

Around his home in east Langley, Horan listened to a chorus of sheep, and while driving back roads, he passed by many farms with curious goats.

“I’d stop and they would come up and they were talking in all these different voices,” Horan recalled. “They’re all different, they’re not just a herd. I wanted to take a deeper look at them. I started thinking, what if the goat, he or she, wants a portrait for the ancestors to admire?”

Rather quickly, Horan found out that barnyard animals “are not that manageable” inside a photo studio, so “the studio goes to them.”

But then sheep proved to be none too sheepish in front of a lens but antsy and anxious. Horan decided he needed a farm animal that could keep still for at least a 15-minute shoot. He approached Vicky Brown, owner of Little Brown Farm in Freeland, with a “kooky idea to set up a studio in your barn and take portraits of your goats.”

Twice a day, she milked her goats so they were accustomed to standing still to provide the ingredients for scrumptious soft cheeses.

Horan set-up a pop-up portrait studio that included a black drape background, diffusion umbrellas on tripods, strobe lights and medium format digital camera.

“It was Vicky’s job to get them into the light,” Horan said. “Sometimes we had to bribe them with treats. It’s not like they were posing.”

The results, though, are revealing, vivid and insightful, as if the animals had come into Horan’s studio and laid down some greenbacks for black-and-white portraits. As if they wanted, like humans, to capture time in a frame if just for a moment.

Curly Sue, Dumbledore, Ben, Jake, Sydney, Bella, Sherlock, Xenia, Xantippe, Luigi and Duchess — they have distinct names, distinct features and personalities— floppy ears, regal horns, curly heads, silky beards, forlorn stares, crooked teeth, sad eyes, defiant stances.

To some viewers, maybe they resemble a relative, an ex-spouse, a celebrity. Or maybe they are just creatures wondering why a human is flashing bright lights into their eyes.

To Horan, his neighborhood sheep began to resemble aristocratic country gentlemen and ladies deserving of nice studio portraits to put in their country homes.

“If you have a dog or a cat, you often wonder, ‘What are they thinking?’ So I looked at these animals the same way,” Horan said. “People think sheep are bland and dumb, but they’re not.”

Horan also set up photo shoots at New Moon Farm Goat Rescue Sanctuary in Arlington and at other small Whidbey farms.

Horan’s recent photos have been shown at galleries around the country to rave reviews and they are selling around the globe. His book is also printed in French and Italian.

As a staff and freelance photojournalist for newspapers and magazines for 30 years, Horan’s assignments ranged from hovering above dog sled teams in a helicopter to capture the Iditarod to following the transactions of a single dollar bill across the country.

His work appeared in Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, The New York Times and he worked as a contract photographer with U.S. News and World Report covering presidents, natural disasters and features.

Horan has spent more years than he cares to admit rolling around in hay with farm animals. “I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” he said, laughing, “Shoot me.

“But I’ve met some great people and I’ve met some even greater pigs, horses, goats and sheep.”

Although he jokes about his passion project, it’s clear that Horan wants his work to help bridge the divide between man and animals that at one time wasn’t as vast as it is today.

“Goats and sheep have served us from the earliest of times,” he writes in his book. “They have walked the world with us. By paying attention, we honor the musings of the sheep and the jests of the goats. And so these pictures make a kind of meditation on our earthly brother-and-sisterhood.”

— Book signing and author discussion of “Goats and Sheep: A Portrait Farm” is 2 p.m., Sunday, March 10 at Ott & Murphy Tasting Room, 204 First Street, Langley. For more information: www.kevinhoran.com

Kevin Horan zooms in on one of his subjects at the New Moon Farm Goatalympics at Evergreen State Fairgrounds in 2017. (Photo by Cindy Apple)

Kevin Horan zooms in on one of his subjects at the New Moon Farm Goatalympics at Evergreen State Fairgrounds in 2017. (Photo by Cindy Apple)

Published by 5 Continents Editions, the 128-page hard cover book sells for $35.

Published by 5 Continents Editions, the 128-page hard cover book sells for $35.

Lizzie (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Lizzie (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Jake (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Jake (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Stanwood (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Stanwood (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Sherlock (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Sherlock (Photo by Kevin Horan)

Kevin Horan, photographer and publisher of the new book, “Goats and Sheep: A Portrait Farm,” will talk about his photos at 2 p.m. Sunday at Ott & Murphy in Langley. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

Kevin Horan, photographer and publisher of the new book, “Goats and Sheep: A Portrait Farm,” will talk about his photos at 2 p.m. Sunday at Ott & Murphy in Langley. (Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)

More in Life

(Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group)
Recipes to welcome summer

While the weather on Whidbey continues to switch between sunny and gray,… Continue reading

SWHS Drama Club presents a classic tale of family, fortune, heart and humor

‘You Can’t Take It With You’ on stage May 24-26

Orrin Gorman McClellan’s words of war resonate beyond his death

‘A Soldier’s Journal, Last Supper to No Goodbye’ chronicles combat’s invisible wounds

Animated Army dog film kicks off vet center fundraiser

‘Sgt. Scubby, an American Hero’ coming to Clyde Theatre Sunday

Parents honor a son wounded by war

This year, when Judith Gorman and Perry McClellan remember their son on… Continue reading

Savor Spring offers palate pleasers of local wine, spirits and food

Six tasting locations featured this weekend on South Whidbey

Bingo, bingo!

Fabulous fundraiser combines drag queens and fun

A cyclist charges up a hill near scenic Ebey’s Landing along the 20-mile route of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s 2018 Sea, Trees Pie Bike Ride on Central Whidbey. Photo provided
Sea, Trees and Pie bicycle ride serving cyclists slice of natural beauty

It’s one thing to take in the sights of scenic Central Whidbey… Continue reading

WhidbeyTV nominated for regional Emmy award

WhidbeyTV has been nominated for a regional Emmy Award for a 30-minute… Continue reading

Orca Network not giving up on captured whale

Nearly half a century later, the fight for Lolita continues. Starting 11… Continue reading

Independence Day Parade marches on for Maxwelton

Business sponsors preserve the South Whidbey tradition

Whidbey Art Escape(s) into downtown Langley

Ceramics paint shop offers do-it-yourself art next to upscale galleries