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27 January 2023

5 minutes with the HWPA Emerging Talent Award Winner

We caught up with 22 year old photographer Megan Dent who, in 2022, won the Emerging Talent Award at the HWPA Derby Awards in London. Megan lives in Yorkshire with her dog Ted and ex-racehorse Nitwit.

Tell us about you and your career in racing. How did you get started?

My Mum and Dad have both worked in racing their whole lives, for the last 8 years my Mum has been a racing secretary for Phil Kirby and I’d help them on weekends and school holidays since I was 14. Then when I finished my A Levels they were still growing in numbers and asked if I’d work alongside Mum in the office full time, I was also lucky to get to go racing plenty and would help on the yard when they were busy.

Through lockdown I moved to live in Phil’s staff house on the yard so I could keep working without travelling home to my family each day – surrounded by 100 acres of fields of horses and not being allowed to leave the yard, I used this time to teach myself how to use a camera and I’d be up before the sunrise and out until after the sun had set everyday.

I quickly learnt the importance of being patient, especially when working with horses! They have a pond in one of the fields there and on the boiling hot days I’d sit on the edge of the field with my camera for hours waiting for the horses to go for a dip. Phil was relaying his gallop at the same time and if I’d gone back to the house to edit he’d ring and say “quick they’re going in!” The satisfaction was immense when I finally got a shot I’d been waiting for, and it still gives me the same buzz now. It was probably in these few months I realised I wanted photography to be more than a hobby.


Patience is something that has helped me in my wider life too. A few years ago I’d want results straight away and everything to happen quickly, now I’ve learnt to keep my head down and keep working hard without the need for instant results, most things in life take time and are usually worth waiting for.

I felt I progressed so much during 2020, and when I got to the end of 2021 I was deflated that I hadn’t pushed myself much further. I went into 2022 with the mindset that I wanted to push on again, tick a few things off my bucket list and go after my own dreams. As much as I loved working for Phil & Pippa, I knew that there was no point in trying to run a business if I wasn’t going to give it 100%, so I worked my final season for them and left to go freelance in the Summer of 2022 – although it’s lovely to go back when time allows and we remain good friends. Pippa and their head lad Simon were actually the first two people to text me after winning the award in London, it’s nice that the people who were with me when I started out are still with me now.

Emerging Through The Fog

I’m now kept busy photographing horses all over the country – yards, studs, at the races and everything in-between! No two days are the same which I love and you don’t know who you’re going to meet.

Despite still living in Yorkshire I’m also very fortunate to be part of Christian Williams’s team in South Wales. I’ve learnt over the last year you’re only as good as the people around you and I feel incredibly lucky to have Christian & Charlotte in my corner – their advice, encouragement and support is endless, I owe a lot to them. The place is of course a photographer’s dream and although self employed life is great most of the time, it can sometimes be lonely too so it’s lovely to still be part of a team there.

Do you have a favourite moment or image in the sport so far?

It’s easy to choose my favourite image so far, I call this ‘In The Valley.’ It’s actually the only one of my own photos I have up in the house – admittedly my own worst critic, there aren’t many I don’t tire of looking at. This one was taken at Christian Williams’s yard, of his three staying chasers Cap du Nord, Win My Wings and Kitty’s Light. I love that it captures the uniqueness of his training operation along with the incredible scenery and even the facial expressions of the lads. Each time I look at it I see something else I hadn’t noticed and it always makes people take a second look! I suppose with photography you’re always looking to capture a moment which can’t be captured again, everything seemed to come together for that moment and we had great fun getting the shot which is always a bonus!

In The Valley

It’s actually one of the three photos which together won me the HWPA Emerging Talent Award which makes it even more special.

What did it mean to win the emerging talent award at the HWPA awards?

I believe my reaction when my name was read out at the HWPA Derby Awards was ‘What the ****!’ And to be fair it hasn’t changed much now! It was easily the highlight of my career so far and it’ll be a hard day to top but we’ll keep trying.

I actually said to someone close to me in December 2021 that I’d love to get my photos seen at The Derby Awards one day, but didn’t for a second think it would happen only a year later. It’s hugely satisfying to set yourself a goal and be able to achieve it, and it meant a lot to know I had made the people who have supported me proud, even more so to have some of them there by my side.

It’s incredible to get that kind of recognition so early on in my career and it’s actually only made me hungrier, hopefully I’ll make it back there again in future years.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

I don’t suppose many people can say they’re living their dream at age 22, I’m very lucky. Winning the Emerging Talent award has really put my name on the map and it’s been brilliant for my career, I hope to continue meeting new people, loving what I’m doing each day and I’m excited for the future!

What is your best advice for aspiring photographers?

Practice, practice and practice. Sadly there are no shortcuts to learning the art so get out with your camera wherever and whenever you can. There aren’t many sports that are as accessible as racing and let you get up close and personal with the stars, so make the most of it!

Shake It Off

I’d also say take every opportunity – and if opportunity doesn’t knock then build a door. Even if it’s outside of your comfort zone, step out and be scared once in a while – it does you good! And if you’ve got a dream then do everything in your power to follow it, work hard and believe in yourself.

All images Megan Dent – Megan Dent Photography

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