When I was about 6 years old I heard about the white horses of the Camargue. I’m not sure how that happened, but even at that age I knew they were special and I wanted to see them. It took a long time (about 60 years!) until I could actually go and visit but fortunately I was, by that time, able to take some photographs that give me pleasure. At age 6 I didn’t have a camera, and certainly wouldn’t have been able to take these pictures, even if the trip to the South of France had been possible then.
Many people used to run teaching sessions/workshops there, in pre-Covid times, and this type of trip is helpful in that the horses are somewhat ‘organised’ for you to photograph, to the extent that small herds are brought together for a couple of hours in one or other area where they can be photographed running or standing in the water. These are the classical Camargue horse photographs.
Sometimes people think that you can just visit the area and see the horses easily, but that’s usually a recipe for disappointment as the place is very unusual terrain. It feels quite ‘secret’ and there are tiny little paths you need to go down to find farms, or ponds, or beaches. The horses are usually brought to these areas, by the local cowboys who are called guardiens who then help the photographers to get the typical photographs by getting the horses moving, and keeping the little herd together. A local organiser is vital!
Say hello to some of the guardiens! (guardiennes too!?)
It is odd that people sometimes dismiss the Camargue horse pictures, as if they must be easy to take, and somehow worth less consideration than I believe to be the case. While having the help of the cowboys to move the horses to an area where they will look good is a great asset the horses are not ‘arranged’ as sometimes seems to be suggested.
You just can’t arrange wild horses like that! You can guide them, herd them and encourage them to move, but in truth they will only do so much for you, and as a photographer you must still be in the right place, with correct settings for the light and the right speed for your shutter. There’s nothing automatic about it, and though people sometimes say ‘you must have taken thousands of images to get that one…’ whichever they are looking at, its not neccessarily the case if you are competent as a photographer, and a bit selective in what you shoot.
I have had a number of odd reactions to my images, sometimes people sneer at them and say ‘Camaaaargue I supppose’ in a very unpleasant manner, which is really strange, as if these beautiful animals are somehow not worth their attention. One apparently very angry man came and stood hands on hips in front of one of my images and said loudly and angrily “How did you fake that?” Here’s the relevant image, which I call ‘Rising star 1’
Of course I had to defend myself, but said quietly that it wasn’t faked and this is what actually happened.
The horse reared up, I anticipated that he would, and I got into the right place to capture the image and also the one below, which I call Rising Star 2. – As an aside, I am not a big ‘photoshopper’, preferring to take the picture the way I want it and amend only the absolute minimum. I certainly couldn’t fake an image to look like these, I just don’t have the skills, nor do I very much like sitting at my computer. I would much rather be outside with the animals enjoying their presence.
So I still wonder what it is that provokes this type of reaction. I have met several people who said they had gone to the area expecting to see horses galloping through the water, and been very disappointed when they couldn’t see them like this. It is quite unusual for the horses to run without some encouragement from the guardiens, but in the image below the lead horse just decided ‘I’m going that way’ for no obvious reason, as the guardiens weren’t nearby at the time. As the lead horse set off the rest of the little herd decided to go too. I call this print ‘Follow my leader’ for obvious reasons.
I think the leader is looking at me and thinking ‘There you are, make the most of it!’
He’s rather cute isn’t he.
One of my herd pictures of the horses in the evening looking rather blue in silhouette seemed particularly interesting and I had it printed on silk Georgette as a luxury silk scarf. Here it is shown off by a famous person who is known for her love of horses and her horse rescue Charity www.manechancesanctury.org. It is well worth a visit when that becomes possible, meanwhile have a look at their website and maybe send them a donation.
I think it suits her extremely well! – but then she’d look great dressed in a paper bag!
This is definitely a favourite of mine, and it is probably my best selling scarf. So if you feel you might like to have a look at it in more detail by all means go and have a look in my online shop.
I planned to exhibit my Rising stars at all of the shows I would normally attend, for example the Wisley Craft in Focus Spring show and the Royal Windsor horse show, both of which have had to be cancelled this year, but both of which are available as virtual events on the web
Finally here’s a ‘chocolate box shot’ of the guardiens in silhouette in the lagoon. I love the guy’s hat! Definitely not a UK approved style and all the better for that!
I hope that having read this blog you might feel that pictures of the Camargue horses, while not the rarest images of white horses, are still worth looking at, and that you too could enjoy the experience of being with a herd of horses, loose in the water, in their natural home. Perhaps owning the scarf would help remind you of the pleasure that awaits you in the South of France! If like me you love white/grey horses have a look at my website for more examples, I think you’ll find many white/grey Lusitanos in a variety of settings.