Tim Flach continues the caveman’s tradition of creating an artistic record of the animals that sustain us. His photography book, “Equus,” is a stellar visual and emotional encyclopedia of the horse and its cousins.
On Saturday, at the Belmont Stakes, I’ll Have Another will close horse racing season by trying to clinch the Triple Crown. We live in a time when many people spend their most meaningful contact with horses once a year with the crack of a starting gun and an explosive bloom of obnoxious hats.
With the horse trotting out of human existence as a utilitarian symbol, all that is left are the remnants of an emotional connection. Therefore, it is hard to imagine a more relevant era for “Equus,” published in 2008, to rejuvenate the horse, previously a tired symbol.
The first third of “Equus” shows horses shot on seamless solids. This is the most experimental portion. It reduces the horse to an abstract form, putting at the forefront shapes and symbols that are innate to the human consciousness.
“Sometimes to reduce something down, you enrich it. It allows your mind to drift and find things,” Flach said. For example, the rise and fall of the horse’s snowy neck in “Horse Mountain” transfers the qualities of immovability and starkness to the horse. It is not like a double exposure, where the shadows of the two images remain. The image is neither horse nor mountain, but perhaps a futuristic metaphor for the transformation of the species.
The other joy of “Equus” is in the range of the photos. Flach photographed fetal horses, zorses (a hybrid with zebras), horses running at top speed, the only horses on Earth that were never domesticated, horse x-rays, and the list goes on.
“What’s rewarding is to bring something to a viewer,” Flach said. “Something that I feel innately in my part of my heritage and history.”