See amazing horse portraits by Norfolk photographer Mark Harvey
- Credit: Mark Harvey
Mark Harvey started taking pictures as a child and used to cycle between drawing, painting and photography.
"I love the challenge of learning new things and am primarily a self taught photographer," he says.
"I immediately launched into photography as my profession in 2003, having graduated from UEA as an ecologist. I had dreams of being a wildlife photographer and the work of Frans Lanting was hugely inspirational.
"At the same time I knew I wanted to create something new in this area. I went down a totally different path and was working in theatres in London, shooting productions, dancers and actors' portraits.
"It was this experience that made we aware of the possibilities of great lighting design and its ability to create drama and accentuate the form of the subject.
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"When I married lighting with horses I instantly knew I had something fascinating and visually exciting," he says.
Have you always had a connection with horses? And what is it that you love about them?
I think horses are the ultimate subject for any artist.
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They can be calm and gentle, they can show great power and strength, and they can demonstrate a great bond and trust between them and their riders.
When I get behind the camera and have a horse in front of me, it is like a form of meditation.
There is so much focus on the horse, keeping it at ease whilst getting it to move naturally into position - all with a full studio of lighting around.
It’s a bit of a balancing act where all the elements needs to come together for a split second.
When a horse is running at me as I am lying on the ground, the levels of focus are upped again as I take a single frame before the ground starts to rumble and I move to the side.
I have been told that I do some dramatic rolls to get out of the way, but I never remember any of this, in that moment of self preservation.
When did photographing equine subjects become a specialism of yours?
I believe it was around 2006 with my first commission taking place at the very beautiful Ferry Farm in Woodbastwick.
Since then I have worked all over the country and travelled abroad, working with international royalty and a number of famous people, including eventers William Fox-Pitt and Mary King, the portraits of which were purchased by the National Portrait Gallery for their collection.
Your equine photography really captures the innate power and beauty of the subjects - how do you establish a trust and rapport with the horses?
I believe the horse knows when you are calm and confident around them.
I don’t pay them too much attention when I’m setting up. It’s a case of working quietly and purposefully and letting them know you are relaxed and most importantly not the vet!
It’s not every day a horse has a photoshoot so there are lots of new things for them to take in.
The process of desensitising them to the light and all the other kit has to be a slow one.
The owners are usually amazed by the end that their horse will stand by itself, with all tack removed and perform for the camera with complete trust.
What equipment do you work with?
We do work with a lot of lighting and I shoot on Hasselblad cameras.
The medium format Hasselblad camera lends itself well to producing the very best image quality in terms of colour, sharpness and shadow detail, especially at larger sizes.
Some of our prints are over two metres wide, so the very best is required.
Can you choose a favourite equine subject that you've photographed? And if so, what is it that makes it particularly memorable?
We did take the official portrait of [racehorse] Frankel back in February 2014 to mark his birthday.
He was valued at £128 million at the time, so this was a high pressure shoot.
I had to draw on my years of experience to produce a majestic portrait of this world-renowned horse.
There was a big team of people and a lot of calm.
We had a small time frame to get the image, because like Prince Phillip, once he decided he was done there is no requesting just one more shot.
Fortunately the meticulous preparations paid off and he gave us the shot.
To see more of Mark Harvey's work go to mark-harvey.com