Rebecca’s review made me visit the author’s website, which made me want to run out and buy this book. Her insightful analysis spoke to my emotional connection with horses; and the author’s photographs spoke volumes in a single shot.
Rebecca Sparenberg is our Assistant Editor, which means that she’s involved in producing the articles you read each month in California Riding Magazine. It also means that she sees equestrian publishing efforts on a daily basis, which gives her a solid basis from which to evaluate writing and photography. As you’ll read here, she also finds the intangibles that elevate writing and photography into art.
I’m signing off here so you can enjoy Rebecca’s review. You just may decide this book makes a great gift as the holidays approach. Happy reading, and happy riding!
Equus, by Tim Flach
No animal in history has ever captivated the hearts and minds like the horse. This is the theme of award-winning photographer Tim Flach’s first book, Equus. Tim’s journey to track the history of man and horse, and to capture the emotions horses provoke in humans took him to the four corners of the globe. From the Royal Yards in the United Arab Emirates where he shot Arabians against an ocean of sand, to Norway where he caught a herd of Icelandic ponies frolicking beside a glacier, to the plains of Utah where he watched over a thousand Mustangs race across the backdrop of blue and pink skies.
That said, it should come as no surprise that I met Tim ringside at the 2006 World Cup Jumping Final in Malaysia. Karen Tappenden of the Holistic Horse introduced me to Tim, who was a featured artist at the show and his work was auctioned off as part of a benefit. He showed me how he was able to open the shutter of his camera and pan along as the horses and riders effortlessly flew around the jumper course.
I dabble in photography and have always loved how it can capture the beauty in the everyday world and turn it into art. Even viewing his shots from the digital screen ringside it was obvious Tim’s highly-stylized images surpassed mere action shots and became art.
In a California Riding Magazine interview in Sept. 2006 Tim told me, “I have always been fascinated with the spirit of the horse…Horses are so rooted in our history, culture and our present day. The opportunity to see them, and see how I could extend the genre of equestrian photography was too much to pass up.”
I have been anxiously awaiting Equus since I first met him ringside and walked breathlessly through his exhibit in Kuala Lumpur. It was well worth the wait!
His work captured horses from every angle possible—every angle, even in-utero. He shot horses from the air, by sea, he stood among a pack of Shetland ponies for close-ups and even shot horses from underwater as they swam in a recovery pool in New Zealand.
An Entire Life, A Single Shot
When I first saw Tim’s work I made the mistake of showing it to my good friend, Ryan, who happens to be an incredible artist and photographer. Ryan and I are normally two peas in a pod, at least when it comes to art and cars. I was shocked when he immediately disliked—strongly disliked—Tim’s work. Ryan thought Tim’s photos were too stylized, lacking depth. At first I thought I had just ruffled his delicate artisan feathers; after all it was the first time I had liked a photographer’s work more than his…yikes.
It wasn’t until Tim’s book arrived that I understood the problem. Their work was too similar! What I love about Ryan’s work is how he captures the stories among people. For example, two men are walking down the street, so alike in build, color and carriage they could be doppelgangers. Except one man is walking alone, carrying a motorcycle helmet and the other is holding the hand of a little girl and upon close inspection has a Spiderman web painted on his face. They cross paths over a railroad track, and share a look—if they had taken different paths their lives could have been switched.
Snap the shot! Wham! There is a story in a single picture. That is what Tim’s photos can do as well—they can capture a horse’s story in a single frame. For example, his shot of a sole Mustang looking over a dusty plain: no herd in sight, just a solitary figure set against rugged background. The open, barren landscape doesn’t distract from the photo, instead the harshness adds to the tale of the extraordinary, if difficult, story of the wild horse’s existence. And yet there is something very lonely about the shot. After all, what is a horse without a herd? That single shot tells an entire story.
Many of my favorite photos in Tim’s book are not the awe-inspiring landscapes, but the simple shots that capture those emotions I could never fully put into words. The way light from a stall, as it falls gently across my gelding’s braids, can catch my breath, as I rest my head along his neck after a long day at a show. Or the way a soft look from my feisty mare, who has struck fear into the hearts of grooms, can tighten my chest.
I believe most equestrians are like me. The things I would miss if I could no longer ride are not the ribbons or awards. It is the way my heart pounds as I wait for the buzzer in a jumper class, the way the world around me seems to blur and melt away as I fly across a grass field, and the way everything goes still and that rare sense of peace when I’m all alone with my mare and a brush.
Emotions! I would miss the emotions. And that is what Tim’s book is all about. Sometimes the photos are about the emotions horses provoke in us. In other shots we have to interpret the way horses are interacting with each other or their environment. Tim was fascinated with how horses have adjusted to the wide ranging environments man has placed them in. From mountains to deserts, horses have evolved and adapted along side man.
His photos are not always comfortable to look at, but they are always thought provoking. As Tim says, it’s a journey—the journey of human and horse—and Tim’s book gives us just a small glimpse of it.
To learn more about Tim and to view more shots from Equus visit www.timflach.com.