Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guest Artist ~ Juliet Harrison

I've never had an issue with considering photographers as artists, but if I had, Juliet's work would have convinced me of their inclusion. In a world now dominated by digital, Juliet continues to work with traditional black and white photography, lovingly developing her images in her own darkroom.

As an artist who prefers to work predominantly from my own photos for reference, I have a particular appreciation for the art of photography. Often I will get an image and stick quite closely to it, but I always have the freedom to fix my mistakes, or make adjustments to make the painting better. Photographers don't have that option. Perhaps there is some leeway in the darkroom and in cropping, but for the most part they are trusting their eye through the viewfinder, and shooting with film demands even more precision. Those of us who shoot digital sometimes rely, perhaps too much, on the knowledge that firing off shots isn't costing us anything.

I have had the privilege of seeing Juliet's work in person, after admiring it online for many years, and like any original artwork, there is just no comparison. I was particularly excited about these shots she took at Saratoga last summer, and thrilled she agreed to share them here! Suffice to say a couple of these will be in my art collection on our next meeting - they would be already, if not for a major 'fail' by the postal system!

More of Juliet's work can be seen on her website and blog, and she also makes some of her images available for purchase to artists for reference. Juliet has also published a book of some of her images, White Horses, From the Literal to the Sublime, a must for any art or horse-lover's library.

Off to the Races
by Juliet Harrison

I never knew much about the Thoroughbred world, at least not the racing part, until 3 years ago this summer, when I spent a day in Saratoga at the track with Linda Shantz. (Equine painter and Thoroughbred horsewoman extraordinaire) Although I have been photographing horses, with my B&W film camera for many years, it was hard for me to figure out what my “vision” would be in this fast paced and often too far for my lens, world of action. I am used to working close up and being able to isolate parts of the horse’s body and environment. This seemed not at all possible at the track. So the images I shot from that first year in Saratoga were pretty much useless for me. They were either boring standard track/race shots or blurry as the horses went by too fast. But I was inspired by being there. I wanted desperately to figure out something that would work for me. Hey, I needed a reason to go back the following year with Linda.

Throughout the year in between, I learned much more about racing from my many emailed conversations with Linda and knew there was something there I needed to capture. Ideas began to percolate in my mind. I had no interest in those distant shots. They would never read well in B&W anyway. Of course the structure of the muscle groups on a sleek thoroughbred is a great subject for me. But to do those I would need better access to the saddling paddock and barn areas. It wasn’t going to be the actual race that I would photograph, but something about what happens behind the scenes. Or what most visitors don’t pay much attention to while there. And I kept being drawn to my thoughts about the relationship between the horse and the jockey. These amazing men and women who dedicate their lives to these magnificent horses. Sure they have to be adrenaline junkies. That is a given. But there has to be more for them to be so driven to do this. So, the question I presented to myself was, how do I portray that “something more”?

Last year, back at Saratoga for two days this time. Armed with more knowledge and a fresh focus….I started to photograph….What I photographed was the moment before the horse and jockey leave the saddling paddock. Hoisted into the saddle, instructions from the trainer done, social “jockeying” with the owners and press is past…this is sometimes the first real moment of communication between the horse and the jockey. As they leave the paddock the jockey goes through a process of getting settled. Part of that process is the tying or knotting of the long reins. It is called “getting tied on”. The reins are often thought of as a live wire of communication between horse and rider. This is the moment I photographed. The intimacy of that moment of adjusting the line of communication. The series title….Getting Tied On….of course.

I will be back in Saratoga this summer with Linda. These images and one other will be exhibited at Terry Lindsay’s Equidae Gallery at the Holiday Inn during race season. And I am excited to see where the series develops and what new ideas I get for my vision at the race track.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post, Thank you for sharing. Lindax