One of the books in my collection of photography tomes that I enjoy revisiting time and time again is Yann Arthus-Bertrand's images of Horses. They are animals I have only had the chance to photograph very infrequently and, each time, I am made aware of the challenge they pose.
Horses are such a mixture of strength and nobility, pride and humility, gentleness and, when highly trained as racehorses, often skittish or on edge. I love them most when they are perfectly still, seemingly balanced on the tip of a hoof that, like a ballet dancers foot, angles down towards the ground. In those moments, power and grace, relaxation and awareness appear to find a perfect symmetry.
Their eyes, too, can be haunting, or gleam with a mischievous glint. When they stare at you they do seem to see into your soul as if asking are you friend or foe? I have directed Peter Shaffer's great play Equus and, apart from the extraordinary tale it tells, it is full of wonderful observations about the complexity of horses. It is not surprising that at times they have been regarded as being as regal as the kings they have carried. Alternatively, Boxer in George Orwell's Animal Farm, is all heart and Herculean strength. In literature, the death of a horse more often than not has as much impact as the death of a human being.
So, photographing such a wonderful creature is a rare privilege but also demands the same intensity of awareness that comes with taking a good portrait. If a link between photographer and horse can be established, an eye contact, an empathy, then I believe the photograph will reflect this relationship. At the end of next week I will have an opportunity to put the above to the test.