Shelley Burger grew up on the football sidelines. Her grandfather was a coach. She loved being outdoors.
She loved photography too. She turned those passions into a career, spending years as a sports photographer for high schools and colleges.
When COVID blew a whistle on competition, the Westporter turned to wildlife. She was still outdoors, still shooting action and movement. Freezing a moment in time — an eagle catching a fish, a horse bucking in the air, an athlete catching a pass or throwing a baseball — is what Shelley does well.
She began riding horses at 5 years old. She has fond memories of riding with her mom.
As she transitioned into wildlife photography, Shelley wondered how to realize a childhood dream: sitting among wild horses, in their home on the range.
This past spring she headed to Onaqui Mountains, 2 hours outside of Salt Lake City. She spent an “amazing” several days in a herd of wild mustangs. Nestled in the tall grass, she watched them frolic and spar. She felt humbled to be among so many “powerful, graceful and compassionate” animals.
While she spent much of her time appreciating the beauty of the land and horses, she learned quite a bit too.
Though she — like many Americans — imagined that mustangs roam freely in the West, in reality, their lives are in danger. The Bureau of Land Management rounds up and removes hundreds of horses each year. Some are relocated; many are slaughtered.
The land is then leased back to cattle ranchers, Shelley says.]
Shelley vowed to help. Back home in Westport, she opened a pop-up gallery on Church Lane, in the former Savannah Bee store.
Her mustang photography exhibit debuted with a special show. Proceeds from sales went to Red Birds Trust, a non-profit that helps wild horses of the Onaqui.
Shelley’s gallery is open Tuesdays through Saturdays (noon to 8 p.m.), through August 15.
Signed prints are available on her website too. Email Shelley_Burger@mac.com for sizing, framing and customization.
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Even though “Red Birds Trust” is a silly and dysfunctional name for a charity aiding wild mustangs, I hope readers will buy a print or just donate to the cause…it’s a most important one and it’s local.
“Red Bird” was the name of a mustang that was killed. I’m not sure why they don’t use an apostrophe in their name.
Thanks, Dan, for highlighting Shelley’s pop-up gallery and her efforts to protect America’s wild horses. Can’t wait to stop in! As it happens, the Darien-based nonprofit I work for has been involved in this issue for years, so allow me to share a link that gives a bit more background about the Onaqui herd and the BLM’s draconian efforts to eradicate them and other herds from their federally protected rangelands out West: https://friendsofanimals.org/want-to-help-save-americas-wild-horses-visit-them/
Hmmmmm; that sure explains the name, arcane as that may be. The possessive must have been used to denote that the name belongs to him, though he’s dead.
Thanks for the eye opener, Dan.