Juliet Harrison, “All That Glitters”
We are struck by the “eye” exhibited in the work of Juliet Harrison, who photographs horses in original and creative ways. Shooting in upstate New York, she takes advantage of light and form to draw the viewer in to a new world she obviously is passionate about …
1. Your photography centers on horses, what led you to specialize?
I have always loved horses. Obsessed since childhood. But I started out my career in photography, photographing structures. I focused on form, light, texture and shadow. At one point in my adulthood I returned to riding horses. When I did, it was a natural progression for me to begin to photograph them.
2. What are the challenges in this type of photography?
I do not set up my shots. I go out and find horses. I use natural light and simple shooting techniques. So I am frequently in settings that I cannot control. I photograph in backyard pastures, at horse shows and racetracks. You have to be comfortable around them and know them well enough to be able to anticipate what they might do next. I am out shooting in all weather. Hot and cold. Wet and dry. I get muddy and covered in stuff that most photographers would turn their noses up at. It is not a pristine environment to photograph in.
3. How do you take animal photography “to the next level” beyond what has already been done?
The biggest challenge in using the horse as subject is to not photograph the cliché. It is easy to fall into the trap of photographing pretty pictures of pretty horses. Commercial equine photography is very formulaic. So to use the horse as subject one has to be willing to step way outside the box or risk creating images that are easily dismissed as “animal art”. By moving closer and closer in to the body of the horse I can create images that can be read as massing, structure, light, texture and shadow. For the horse person, they are actually a visual depiction of what is felt under the hand or seen by the eye when working with a horse. For the non-horse person they can be read as landscape, as nude, as space and sound. Because the horse is a large bodied animal, it is possible to do this. So I can photographically isolate muscle, bone and coat.
4. What role does Black and White have in your art?
For me, using Black&White is essential. When I look through a viewfinder, I see in B&W. It goes hand-in-hand with the imagery that I shoot. Color is a distraction. The eye is drawn to color before anything else. By taking color out of the equation, for me, I get to bring form, light and texture to primary importance. B&W reduces everything down to the most important information. There is a greater challenge in using B&W. It is harder to do successfully because you don’t have the crutch of a likeable color to draw the eye. But it taps into the elemental for both myself as image maker and for the viewer. I strive to create simple but powerful imagery in line, form and in B&W.
For more of Juliet’s work: Juliet Harrison