Carina Maiwald seems to truly capture the spirit of the horse.
Carina Maiwald is a German photographer who has a gift of capturing the magic around horses in her photographs. She specializes in horse photography, with projects ranging from what horse racing is like behind the scenes, wild horses in Bosnia, to horses in their private worlds.
I caught up with Carina and asked her about her artistic process and what it’s like being an equine photographer.
When did you first know you wanted to photograph horses? Was there a special moment/event?
“Animals and especially horses have always been a part of my life. I can also remember the first time I actually sat in the saddle and this was definitely the moment my love for horses was created.”
“I started photography at an early age but somehow I never took photos of horses – or at least not on purpose. I did a lot of photography for fun but I did not know that I could combine this passion with my other passion for horses. After spending three years of becoming a certified Graphic Designer I began to take photography more seriously. I wasn’t completely happy with an office job so I started to think again what other job would fit me. Maybe a 9-to-5-job isn’t for everyone and since I grew up surrounded by nature, I knew I didn’t want to spent my whole life in front of a computer working for other people’s dreams. I wanted to work on my own and wanted them to count.”
“The game finally changed when I got my first own horse and took photos of it one hot summer evening. These photos aren’t even close to what my recent work looks like, but I felt satisfied trying to capture a horses’ true character. I loved being around these animals, working in nature and getting a special connection to them during our session. So, basically, without this particular horse I might never had found my true passion – I still feel very grateful for this, though he’s been gone for a long time.”
Where did you grow up?
“I’m located in Germany in a small town called Dorsten, which is about 2 hours from Cologne. This is also the place of my birth and I feel very grateful I was able to grow up surrounded by nature. Living on the countryside is one reason I feeI strongly connected to nature and animals.”
Do you find that there are different horse cultures in the U.S. vs in Europe?
“I visited the U.S. one year ago and I was amazed by the western riding culture which is much more rooted in most parts of the country. In Germany it seems to be a hobby to be a western rider but in the U.S. it’s a complete lifestyle. I see this culture evolving in Europe (as in Italy), but I think “the wild west” of U.S. will always be associated to this privilege of romantic western cliché. Thinking of the U.S. there’s one particular word popping up in my mind: mustangs. No other country can compete to this (well, okay, maybe Bosnia.. ).”
You have photographed both racing horses and wild horses (project in Bosnia). Can you talk a little bit about how photographing the horses were similar and how they were different?
“It’s interesting, because you would think they couldn’t be less alike. On the one side there’s a domesticated horse which was bred for sport and on the other wild mixed breeds who have no humans taking care of them. But looking closer there are many things both have in common, which is kinda surprising, like their survival instincts, social behavior, and coat colors.”
“To me, these things are secondary because both domesticated and wild horses had one big similarity: passion. Race horses seek adventure, success, and partnership, just as wild horses do. Besides they both feel intense passion for their family – whether it might be the jockey or trainer, their leading stallion or own foal.”
Are there any precautions you take before heading into a herd of horses to take their pictures?
“Usually you don’t even come this close to a herd of wild horses, so you don’t have to think about precautions. In this special case the horses are used to people visiting them from time to time. Maksida Vogt organized trips to raise public awareness and after the horses found out that humans won’t harm them they even started to like cuddles and caring touches.”
“If you visit other wild horses and want to come close to them you have to be very careful with your body language. Predators go straight towards their victim and focus their eyes on them – if you do so, the animal will think of you as danger.”
“The leading stallion might wants to protect his family and attack you. Pay attentions to their ears – if they lie flat in their neck, they try to threaten you. It’s the last warning before he will attack – and as a survival artist he won’t miss this chance. Just move backwards then. Give them some space and everything will be okay again.”
Do you have any other ongoing projects? What’s next for you?
“The wild horse series was the first part of a complete projects which had been planned for years. I want to visit many different populations of wild horses around the globe, for example in Africa and Asia.”
“I want to create a personal homage to these incomparable creatures including all their beautiful imperfections and inspiring rawness. Besides I also want to work on more rescue and welfare projects to help organizations raise the awareness against animal abuse. For this I hopefully get the chance to travel to the Caribbean next year, where a special group of people work very hard to save animals each day.”
Do you have anything you want to add about your photos and/or the physical task of taking pictures of horses?
“For everyone who is interested in becoming an equine photographer, I want to give the advice to pay less attention to equipment. Special moments are created in your heart, so listen to it and I’m sure the picture will turn out looking breathtaking, because there’s an actual part of you frozen in it.”
“If you want something – work for it and don’t settle before you reach it. Life is too short to spend it doing things that make you feel unhappy or worthless.”
Carina Maiwald seems to capture the true wild spirit of the horse while on the other side of her camera. She is able to blend the raw power and sweet compassion of this animal to create images that speak to every animal lover, but mostly equestrians. Her photos are really quite mesmerizing.
All photos property of Carina Maiwald, used with permission.