Fox Hunting Life with Horse and Hound

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janet hitchen3.leesDouglas Lees photoPopular and widely-respected photographer Janet Hitchen (neé Goldberg) died at her home near Millwood, Virginia on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2015. She was seventy-one.

Brilliant at her art, she has, over the last few decades, recorded a magnificent visual historical record of people and events in the world of field sport in and around Virginia. I fervently hope that her collection of negatives and digital image files will be preserved in her name, in the custody of a capable and responsible archivist, for the benefit of sporting researchers and writers of the future.

Janet was my go-to photographer from the early 1990s on, whenever I needed an image for Covertside. When I published the first full-color foxhunting calendar for the American Foxhound Club in 1998, she was the first photographer I called. Two of her photos were included in that inaugural calendar, and her photos have graced the pages and covers of Covertside and our Foxhunting Life Calendars ever since.

Janet grew up in Washington, DC and moved with her family to Potomac, Maryland in her early teens. She attended the University of Maryland and followed her love for horses. She competed in horse shows, became a member of the Potomac Hunt, trained hunters, and taught riding. She married and divorced three times.

After discovering her passion and talent for photography, she trained at the Corcoran College of Arts and Design in Washington, DC, started her own business, and soon could be found either at a horse show, point-to-point, sanctioned steeplechase, or foxhunting fixture—camera, kit, and eyeglasses draped about her neck—plying her craft. Her photographs were published regularly and widely, locally and nationally, appearing in Covertside, Middleburg Life, Foxhunting Life, In & Around Horse Country, The Chronicle of the Horse, and certainly many others I don’t even know.

Having mastered her art, she was always willing to help others who followed in her footsteps. When the digital revolution swept the photographic products industry, she turned for help to Matthew Klein, a foxhunter based in Millwood, Virginia, who lives his other life as a commercial photographer in New York City. Each was an admirer of the other’s work.

“Long before I met her, I was in awe of Janet’s instincts and reflexes as a photographer,” said Klein. “I always make note of a superior photo, and it seemed that whenever I saw one in a magazine, it was Janet’s. Her work was always distinguished by critically sharp focus, clear color, and a sense of timing that showed the subject, whether human or animal, in perfect balance.”

Janet’s other passion was the welfare of animals. If she had a patron saint, it would have to be Noah. She rescued animals of every type—dogs, cats, horses, ponies, donkeys, chickens, emus, pigs—and brought them home. Hundreds, surely, over the course of her lifetime. She died surrounded by her dogs, both in her bed and beside it.

She was her very own person and never hesitated to speak her mind about the welfare of animals. She must have been conflicted about her love of sport, foxhunting, and foxhounds. She heard the party line about the despicable and even unlawful acts committed by HSUS and PETA, but she would respectfully defend those organizations for whatever good acts they accomplished for the benefit of animals.

When the weather was kind, she enjoyed lunches at an outside table at Lockes Store in Millwood. Her table would quickly fill with friends and admirers. If I got there early enough, I might even find a seat for myself. One of those green tables needs to be dedicated to her memory.

Janet’s framed images are found hanging in homes, shops, and galleries, many privately commissioned. Each year when springtime rolls around, it’s been my habit to pick up the phone and dial her number. “It’s calendar time again,” I would say. “Come over and we’ll go through what I’ve got,” she’d reply. I’d wade through the animals and clutter in the office, find a chair yet unclaimed by one of the dogs, and sit down as her computer screens came to life with her amazing images. I will miss that terribly this year.

Posted March 27, 2015

A celebration of Janet's life will be held on Friday, April 17, 2015 at Farmer's Delight, 36276 Mountville Road, Middleburg, Virginia from noon to 2:00 pm. The invitation says, "Rain or shine, Come as you are. All of her friends are welcome!"

Update posted April 9, 2015

Comments   

# K R 2015-03-28 10:13
Norman- you brought her life to "light" beautifully...
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# Karen Kandra Wenzel 2015-03-29 18:23
I first met Janet in the late 60's at local horse shows in Potomac. When I was an avid foxhunter in the 70's & 80's, Janet would often photograph all the local opening meets, and Gary and I have several of her framed photos on our walls to cherish those memories. When I started photographing hunt meets in the late 90's, I visited Janet and asked her to take a look at some of my shots. Her comments were helpful to me, and she encouraged me to keep shooting. In 2001 when my shot of Katie Gilbert & her Basset from Bryn Mawr appeared in the CHRONICLE, Janet e-mailed me with a big "Congratulation s--great shot"....that meant the world to me to get her approval, and it gave me more encouragement to continue shooting. Last yr. Janet was instrumental in getting my shots of Grand Champion Foxhound PHOENIX published in HORSE COUNTRY, and I will miss her talent, her support, and her friendship.
Rest in peace, Janet.
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# Vicki Crawford 2015-03-30 01:12
Dear Norman,
This is a wonderful obituary for Janet. She and I met at a horse show when we were about 12 or 13. After she married Peter Hitchen, she and Peter, and Skip and I became a permanent foursome. We went everywhere and did everything together. Those years were some of the best we ever had with tons of fun and laughter. When she and Peter split up and she moved to Middleburg, I made a concerted effort to see her but the time and distance became greater with each ensuing year and sadly we did not see as much of each other. We had quick visits at race meets in the spring and fall with the occasional lunch or dinner thrown in. I will miss her very, very much.
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# Denya Massey 2015-04-03 10:26
When I agreed to write a story about Huntland for Norman Fine, I had no idea how fortunate I would be to spend time with Janet, who had taken many of Huntland.

I’m sure she did not suffer fools gladly, so I was more than thrilled when she saw me after my article published, and was highly complimentary, remarking on my good photographs as well!

I can’t imagine why she spent that time with me personally, but her love of her chosen profession was contagious – shared equally with her diverse four legged ‘orphans’. She'd drag out some favourites to share with me, to tell me a story, often admiring a photograph she hadn’t seen recently, all the while growling at her computers!

What a loss, for those of us who were captivated by her talent and curiousity, and impressed by her personality and character. I count my time with her as very special, and memorable.
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+1 # Lauren Woolcott 2015-04-06 20:03
"A light gone out", the phrase spoken when Gandhi passed away, just as appropriate here. Janet, whose images vibrantly depicted life in our beautiful countryside, oh, you will be missed!
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# Anita Baarns 2015-04-14 10:13
I will miss you Janet. You were always so kind to me. I loved your photographs, and I will always treasure the pictures you took of me and my hunting horse.
Rest in Peace.
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# NanMoseley 2015-04-25 20:51
What a great person, I shall miss Janet so much.
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# Hal Magruder 2015-05-01 17:09
I met Janet in 7th grade and thought the world of her all her life.Though I had not seen her in recent years I will miss her very much.
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# Judy Keshavarz-Nia 2015-05-12 17:59
I just found out today after a visiting Middleburg after a long absence and am very much saddened. Janet and I first met when aiding a miniature horse. While at her place I ended up meeting and, a few days afterwards, adopting a foxhound Janet had taken into her fold. This dog, Dimple, was my wonderful, loyal friend for 5 years until she passed at 12 years of age. Thank you God for giving us Janet - she will be truly missed. May she rest in peace.
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# Guest 2016-01-06 11:47
Whipple Rickman-- Janet was a good friend to me, many years ago, and every few years I would stop by her place to catch up. No matter how busy she was (& she was always busy!), she would take time out to offer me a cup of tea and we'd sit in her kitchen and chat. I was going to send her a card today, and decided to Google her. I am very sad to hear of her passing away.
She was a true friend to so many...
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# Guest 2017-03-29 22:41
I am vy saddened to learn only now, two years later, of Janet's passing. In 1997 and 1999 I visited her farm with my beloved dogs Daisy and Abner, joined on the second visit by Molly. I can still hear Janet hooting to get their attention for just the right shot in the countryside around her farm. These are among my most treasured photos with my dogs and these sessions were among the most joyous experiences of my life. I am so sorry to read of this. RIP Janet. Yr heartwarming spirit and brilliant talent are recorded for all to see forever.
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