Updated: May 19
It was in 2005, when I was living in Stockholm, Sweden, that I decided to start photographing horses in the studio-portrait style of the past, where the subject would be photographed in a studio in front of a backdrop. This approach was extensively used by the French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand with his studies of farm animals and horses. By isolating the subject, in my case, the horse, the viewer’s attention would be focussed on the main elements that the photographer wished to present. I liked the idea so I adopted this approach as well.
The first horse that I photographed using a backdrop and studio lighting was a gentle Friesian gelding, stabled on the outskirts of Stockholm. His shiny black coat lit up perfectly withe the studio lights. I was pleased with the results, so I decided to head to the Middle East.
A year later, I shipped my photographic equipment (stands, lights, backdrops) to Jordan, where I started photographing purebred Arabians in earnest. This was the proper beginning of my journey!
I chose to photograph Arabians for several reasons: I found them to be the most beautiful and special breed of horses; also I had a need to connect with my Arab roots, and that I wanted, as an Arab photographic artist to present the Arabian through Arab eyes, not Western eyes as was nearly always the case.
Amongst the first Arabian horses that I photographed were those of the Royal Jordanian Stud, managed by HRH Princess Alia, sister to the king of Jordan. Princess Alia generously welcomed my proposal to photograph her horses, and continued over the years to support my efforts by attending exhibitions, writing in my book on Arabians and much more. She is truly a wonderful person and I have much respect for her. Other prominent Jordanian horse breeders were also welcoming in allowing me to photograph their beautiful steeds. Having lived in northern Europe for so long, I had almost forgotten about the generous Arab hospitality. It was a delight to experience it again!
I was swept away by these magnificent creatures and hoped to be able to reflect some of the beauty, elegance and pride that they displayed for me. I was interested in showing something of the horse that would bring the viewer closer in and create an emotional connection of sorts. My interest in art is often related to how it makes the viewer feel, that for me is more important than technical achievement.
Eventually I left Sweden and based myself in Dubai for a period of several years. I continued making photographic portraits of horses and then extended it to include hunting falcons. The Gulf of Arabia, with its desert kingdoms where horses and falcons are still held in high esteem as symbols of culture, heritage and nobility, was a good place to present my work.
My first exhibition of the Arabian horse was held in 2008 in Stockholm. That was followed by an exhibition in Jordan under the patronage of HRH Princess Alia later in the year. The show was met with much success and encouraged me to continue the project. The following year I exhibited in Dubai, again to much success. Later the work was shown in Bahrain, then Abu Dhabi, and again, another series, in Jordan, a few years later in Spain, later still in Qatar… Someday I would like to show the work in the US and the UK too. Perhaps the opportunity will arise, someday, inshallah.
All in all, I have spent the best part of a decade producing photographic portrait pictures of Arabian horses and hunting falcons. I am satisfied with much of the work that I produced and I don’t wish to dwell on the subject for ever. Yet there is always a new print that emerges from my extensive catalogue which I suddenly have a desire to print. These days I am more inclined to making hand-crafted B&W photogravure prints, than colour Giclée digital prints. But either way, my aim is to produce a picture that has ‘soul’ and feeling, that can create an emotional response of sorts in the viewer, including myself of course. Sometimes I am successful in doing so and it is wonderful when that happens.