Artist profile - Rob Powell, Horseplay photography
PUBLISHED: 18:00 17 May 2016
Photographer Rob Powell has a passion for raw, natural shots of horses. Here, he opens up his portfolio for Lancashire Life readers
They say dog is man’s best friend but Lancashire photographer Rob Powell isn’t so sure. He puts up a pretty convincing case for the horse.
‘If you go back through history you see countless examples of man and horse working together,’ he said. ‘They’ve stood side-by-side in many situations.’
Rob has a compelling piece of evidence in the form of a recently discovered black-and-white photograph of his great-grandfather posing proudly with his horse somewhere in France in the first World War. ‘He was in a cavalry and I’m trying to do some research to find out exactly where it was taken.’
While his great-grandfather was obviously skilled in dealing with horses Rob, who is from near Prestwich, admits that he doesn’t come from a ‘horsey’ background.
He became fascinated by them when he started taking event pictures while studying for a degree at what is now Manchester Metropolitan University.
‘I really enjoyed working with horses and people connected to the equestrian world because you get such an interesting mix of people,’ he said. ‘I started offering horse portraits and all things to do with horses and riding.
‘I also have a passion for travel so I try to combine the two things – from the Appleby Horse Fair to horse racing in India. Next up I want to photograph Caspian horses in Iran and I also want to push the fine art side of what I do.
‘I’m fascinated by the relationship between a horse and its owner. You can see this very clearly in the show ring. It’s something I strive to capture – the way people express themselves with their horses. I can do fashion-style horse photography but I really enjoy a more raw, natural style.’
Rob, who is also a commercial photographer, encourages people to communicate with the horse rather than force them into situations where they are uncomfortable. ‘I concentrate on the horse rather than the rider. I produce pictures that are very natural and the feedback is that I’m not invasive and I capture just what I see. The pictures aren’t all glammed up,’ he said.
‘They can be incredibly difficult so the key to working with horses is listening and observing how they behave and then working around it. Patience is the key. I can spend anything up to two and a half hours with the horse – basically until it becomes fed up with me! But normally, it can be much quicker.
‘I got into it because sports injuries forced me into thinking about new ways of expressing myself. I wanted something that would tie together people and travel and photography was the answer.
‘I keep it affordable because not everyone who has a horse is rich. Some do have them as a Saturday morning plaything but most of the people I deal with live their lives around their horses so they have a good life. It’s a seven day a week commitment, with early hours and in all weathers.’
Rob’s great-grandfather would have agreed, no doubt. w
To see more of Rob’s work go to www.horseplayphotography.co.uk