'Aragon Colt with Mother'
Why did you shoot the image in black and white?
Sometimes things just look better in black and white. No fuss, no colour, no distraction. Simplicity. Also, I was shooting for an expanding collection of monochromatic photogravure etchings.
How did the mother and foal respond to being photographed?
First of all I had to gain the mother’s trust. Bay Brulee, the mother, was a first-time mum so all the more wary. A gentle approach was the only way, as was staying low, and staying still. This helped the mother relax and accept me into her space. Aragorn was only 24 hours old, but seeing him zoom around the pasture like he’d done it a thousand times was hard to believe. He was a confident young colt, and it was only a matter of time before I was batting him away from the end of my lens.
'Camargue in the Mist'
Where did the inspiration come from to take pictures of the Camargue horses?
Having seen lots of beautiful photographs of the Camargue horses over time, I had always wanted to experience them for myself. Then I was commissioned to photograph them for a book, The Majesty of the Horse.
Were there any difficulties in getting the shot?
The biggest challenge was getting something new and different. You see a lot of images of Camargue horses splashing through water and I wanted something original. I was also worried about actually locating where they were, but very early on that misty morning I found the herd close to the path quite quickly.
Did the horses know they were being photographed?
The horses knew I was there, and at times I was fairly close up. They were flighty, responsive, spooked at the crack of a twig underfoot. Mostly they were unapproachable, until the end of the shoot when the sun came up and they began grazing and relaxing. Then I spent a few moments with them, chatting and saying good morning.
'Circling at Dawn'
How did you find out about the Marwari horses?
The first time I heard of the Marwari horse was through my namesake, Astrid, who was assistant to her photographer friend Dale Durfee many years ago. Dale specialized in photographing the Marwari horse, and it was amazing to finally have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps all these years later.
Tell us more about the horses you photographed. Who do they belong to and how did you find them?
The horses belong to a friend, Satish Seemar, who is originally from Punjab but who now lives in Dubai in the Middle East. Satish was very generous, and happy to share his Marwari horses with me. I visited his farm in Punjab, which was about a seven hour bumpy ride from Delhi.
Tell us a little more about the tradition of the Marwari horses and horsemen?
Chetak was the legendary Marwari horse who died in battle in 1576, in the arms of the mighty Maharana Pratap of Mewar and whose legend lives on today. The Marwari horses of today are Chetak’s ancestors, and like him are known for their grace, bravery and loyalty.
On the day of the actual shoot, we set out before dawn. If you have ever visited North West India you will have experienced how wonderful the morning light is. Fresh, cold mornings and warm hot days in the desert bring a tremendous morning mist with a vast palette of purples and pinks. Having warmed ourselves with freshly brewed masala chai, we went out onto the farm to watch the horses being worked. Marwaris are light-footed, agile and spirited and, for me, this image of them circling and kicking up dust encapsulates everything that is special about them.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on a collection of images taken at a Sikh festival in the Punjab called Holla Mohalla. Its held every year in a town called Anandpur Sahib, the birthplace of Sikhism. The festival revolves around the Nihangs, peaceful Sikh warriors who wear distinctive electric-blue robes and quoits of steel tiered in thir lofty turbans. Fast-paced horseback races, tent-pegging, colourful displays and mock-fights are just a tiny part of this festival. I am going to launch a new collection of these images in 2015.
What led you to become an equine photographer?
I guess I don’t really think of myself as an equine photographer. When I call myself that people assume I just attend sporting events. Really, I see myself as a photographer who is inspired by all things horse. Sort of the same, but different.
The start of my fascination with all things equine ultimately led me to this point; 11 years old and I painted my first digital horse on my vintage Amstrad. My career then led me back to horses when I was 27 and my best friend gave me a coffee table book called “Spirit Horse” by Tony Stromberg. Six months later I had quit my job in marketing and was working on a ranch in Argentina, putting together a small coffee table book for the estancia. I then headed to California to meet Tony Stromberg and spend a week photographing wild mustangs with him and Kimerlee Curyl, another amazing horse photographer. It was then that I realized that this was what I wanted to do more than anything else.