It’s a little girl’s dream come true: a chance to see a unicorn.
And get your picture taken with it as proof.
Area photographers are offering portraits with unicorns, and whether it’s to fulfill a childhood wish or a simple love of fantasy, both children and adults are (excuse our pun) champing at the bit.
Michelle Prince of Michelle Studios Photography first shot a “unicorn” portrait in 2015, when she dressed up Lola, a white miniature horse.
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“I didn’t think it would be a thing years and years ago when I put a horn on Lola,” she said.
They proved so popular she began offering unicorn photo packages in September.
Shanna Dunn of ASD Photographs started offering unicorn photos in March when her administrator, Dana Allen of Wendell, asked Dunn to photograph her daughter Erika while she played with a unicorn to celebrate her third birthday.
Allen received over 100 messages in one night after posting the pictures of her daughter on Facebook, and now Dunn has had 36 unicorn portrait sessions and is booked into August. She takes the photos on Sunday evenings at Crescent Moon Farm in Archer Lodge, about 30 minutes east of Raleigh. Her portrait subjects have included babies, elementary schoolers and an expectant mother.
Joy Boutin brought her daughter, Asher, 2, to the farm for photographs in May. Asher has hydranencephaly, a rare disorder that means an individual has fluid where parts of his or her brain should be. When Asher was born, doctors said she would only live a few days.
“Any pictures we have with her are valuable to us because every day’s a gift,” said Boutin, who lives in Wake Forest.
In May, Dunn photographed Asher in her wheelchair and in a tulle-covered basket while the unicorn grazed behind her or sniffed at her.
“Many times people find special needs equipment scary or not attractive,” Boutin said. “We want people to see the beauty of it.”
Boutin said she appreciated that the unicorn’s owners, Celine Pettigrew and Fred Page of Crescent Moon, were always just out of view of the camera making sure Asher was as safe as possible being so near a horse.
Nancy Jo Lee of Nancy Jo Photography in Wake Forest uses a pony named Wy who lives at Caballera Farm in Youngsville as her unicorn. She started taking her unicorn photo shoots in May after finally finding Wy. She said it took a while to find a pony that was comfortable with children sitting on him bareback. Wy gets positive reinforcement for his good behavior with apple chunks throughout the photo shoot.
Prince also likes to use small horses for smaller children.
“We should all be cognizant that they’re animals, not photo props,” she said.
Her unicorns include Lola, Taz, Angel and Sizzle. When they aren’t playing dress-up, they are either therapy horses from Stampede of Love or lesson horses from Carriage Farm, both in Raleigh.
The unicorn Dunn uses is actually Richie, a 23-year-old white quarter horse who, when he’s not posing for pictures, is a lesson horse at Crescent Moon.
On Sunday afternoons, Page washes Richie, who starts to turn green at the end of each week from rolling in grass, and Pettigrew puts on his costume: pink flowers for his mane and a white halter with a shiny gold horn made of fabric. They used to have a styrofoam one, but it snapped mid-photo shoot when Richie put his head down for a nibble of grass.
Then Page and Pettigrew lead the portrait subject, typically a 3- or 4-year-old girl, over to Richie and wait for the magic to happen.
“When they ask us if it’s a real unicorn, we tell them to look and tell us,” Dunn said.
Vicki Darden’s daughter Lindsay, 8, was scrolling through Facebook on her mother’s phone when she saw photos Allen had posted from unicorn photo shoots. Darden, a certified medical assistant who lives in Dunn, decided it was too cute not to try it.
“It was like a fairy tale,” Darden said. “Lindsay kept asking, ‘Mama, is it real?’ ... She loved every bit of it.”
Richie may have some competition soon. Dunn envisions putting a silver horn on a black horse at Crescent Moon for a different look.
“We’re going to keep at it as long as the interest is there,” Dunn said. “It’s fun for us too.”
Evie Fordham: @eviefordham 919-829-4654
The photo shoots range from 30 minutes to an hour but each photographer is willing to customize the shoots with tea parties and the like. Baseline packages range from $200 to $365 depending on the photographer.
Michelle Studios Photography: 919-637-7985 or http://michellestudios.com/contact/
Nancy Jo Photography: 919-570-1009 or http://www.nancyjophotography.com/
ASD Photographs: 919-618-6355 or www.facebook.com/asdphotographs/