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Documenting the life of the horse loggers of Bowland

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 September 2015 | UPDATED: 19:39 18 April 2016

A logger loads up a trailer

A logger loads up a trailer

Photography By Matthew Savage

Young photographer Matthew Savage set up a rainswept shoot of Bowland loggers and their remarkable horses

Steam rises from horses as rain-drenched loggers manhandle trees felled from the Trough of Bowland in scenes that are almost medieval. As photographer Matthew Savage says: ‘This was never going to be a shoot for Vogue magazine.’

Matthew, who has just completed a photographic degree at Blackburn prior to setting up in business, put together this dramatic portfolio after becoming embedded with Lancashire’s forestry workers.

‘It was meant to be a small university project but it grew into something much bigger,’ said 22-year-old Matthew. He spent rain-swept hours recording loggers, tree surgeons and the men building paths and fences in this area of outstanding natural beauty.

The main focus was on the Celtic horse loggers, based in the south Lakes, and contracted for work removing trees on the Bowland estates. ‘They are remarkable animals – the phrase “work horse” was made for them,’ says Matthew, who comes from Accrington.

Matthew SavageMatthew Savage

The horses are a mix of Belgian Ardennes and North Swedish, especially bred for this type of work, which has been championed by the Prince of Wales because it is so environmentally-friendly. The horses are low carbon, they can manoeuvre in tight spaces and they don’t damage the landscape like heavy machinery.

‘While I was there the weather was absolutely horrific,’ says Matthew. ‘The horses look fed up because it was some of the heaviest rain I’d ever been out in, but they are bred for the work. In fact, they start to get restless if they are idle for too long. I was using a brand new camera lens so I was more nervous about being out in those conditions.’

The results were well worth a soaking.

Matthew has been taking pictures since he was a youngster. ‘I was lucky enough to go on foreign holidays as a kid so I was forever taking landscape shots,’ he says. ‘I had ambitions to be a criminal psychologist but when I was looking for an extra A-level subject I chose photography and just fell in love with landscape work.

‘Some people have said I’ll struggle to make a living but I’m optimistic about the future. I’m not just interested in pretty pictures – I like my work to have an editorial edge.’

His pictures of Bowland illustrate the point perfectly. w

To see more of his work go to www.matthewsavagephotography.co.uk or contact Matthew Savage at 07449928249

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