Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
The spirit of a horse. It takes a keen eye to see beneath the flesh of such a magnificent beast, into the farthest reaches of its soul. The power, both physical and spiritual that flows from a horse is like no other. Impossible to see, only to feel. And yet, that is exactly what photographer Tony Stromberg manages to do: Capture the split-second moment of the spirit of the horse into a photograph, so that you can set it free once again.
Tony has a unique approach to photography. Many artists throughout time have longed to try and capture the soul of the horse. Tony, however, does the opposite: He lets the horses run free. Their soul, spirit and physical presence is wild, dangerous, and even more apt to pull you under the waves of its power that can completely change your life.
That power changed Tony’s life, indeed. Working for over two decades as an advertising photographer, on the outside he seemed to have everything that anyone would want. But on the inside, he had lost who he was; his spirit. “…but in my inner landscape was barren and I began “searching” for my lost spirit.”
I found myself disenchanted, burnt out and ultimately receiving no nourishment from the work I was doing.- Tony Stromberg
So, he said goodbye to his advert photography days and went on a life changing ride of discovery.
It was in the 1990’s when Tony discovered horses. He then combined them with his passion for photography along with his unusual approach: He photographs horses. Just horses, with no riders, no tack, in a natural setting.
13 years ago, a friend mentioned he should try doing workshops and teach. Why not give it a try? Nearly a decade and a half later, Tony now has workshops in America, Canada, Portugal, France and previously in Morocco–a long way since his first workshop in a barn with a slideshow! Another interesting thing to mention is that during his workshops, he has no “hidden secrets”. Instead, Tony shares all of his tips and process with his students, showing them everything from his camera settings to positions for different shots to touching up the lighting on Photoshop. This makes his workshops a very unique experience for people who are interested in getting the best results from their work in photography.
The unwanted ones are the best teachers and have the most wisdom, I feel. – Tony Stromberg
Tony Stromberg has also published three books, his forth coming out this August. Each book has uncommon focus point. The “Forgotten Horses” focus’s on the forgotten horses that have been neglected broken, forgotten, shining a new light onto their little known story. His other book “Spirit Horses” showcases 140 photographs of horses he took during his travels. “Horse Medicine” highlights the bond that horses create, and answers some of the questions we have about the mystical connection some people have with them. But, don’t just take it from me. Read on below to discover even more about Tony and his journey as a photographer in this exclusive interview we had this past Sunday (7/10/16) on #equinearthour!
TFS: Would you explain more about your workshops? What do you offer aspiring photographers?
TS: Sure, when I do workshops, I shoot along with the other participants. I like to share with people my entire creative process including what camera settings I use, how I see light, how I position myself, what I like for backgrounds, etc. Then I show people how I edit through all the images shot, how I select images, and what I do on Photoshop to bring it out. About the question… what do I offer young and aspiring people? —My whole creative process, and the place to experiment, to play, to learn by doing, and to try new things. I am not a classroom teacher.
TFS: Can you tell us more about your workshops in Morocco and France? They look very exciting!
TS: I am not going to do Morocco any more. The amount of time and energy it takes is just way too much for us to handle. France has always been one of my favorites, and I am going back in September. 8 nights, 7 days, and we shoot at a new location every day. We shoot in the afternoons and evenings…mornings are for editing and exploring town.
TFS: Have you ever thought of doing online workshops?
Yes, I have thought about it, but that’s about as far as I have gotten. I think it is easier to teach when….you’re actually out there with the horses, in “real time”, not on a computer screen. But I am considering.
TFS: Do you ride horses yourself? Hove you always admired horses?
TS: yes, but not that often anymore…
TFS: I read that you have been teaching for 13 years now. What started you on this journey and has it taught you anything?
TS: 13 years… some people I knew encouraged me to try workshops, so I finally put one together in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA). You just have to start and dive through the fear. I was terrified the first time around!!!! I tell people up from that I am nervous, and that my teaching style is not rigidly structured and hard.
TFS: You have workshops across the world. Can you tell us what it feels like to travel abroad and teach photography?
TS: It is always an adventure, especially when going to a new place. I love the horses I have met all over the world…but the travel can be difficult. Oftentimes 24 hours or more of travel, and that I could do without!!
TFS: I read that the majority of your photographs are of horses with no riders/tack. How did you get this idea?
TS: Yes, that is what I do. ONLY horses, no riders, no competitions, no hardware,no adornments, just pure horse… I want to share the pure essence, the pure spirit of the horse in his natural state, free to be who he/she is. Horses have helped me a lot, and I feel my work is an “homage” to the horses.
TFS: Would you tell us more about your book “The Forgotten Horses”?
TS: Sure, that book was a labor of love. I was going to do a second book on Baroque horses… fancy breeds… HOWEVER, I was doing workshops at the time, and started to ask where some of my favorite horses had gone, only to find that many had been put down for some ridiculous reasons. This whole theme was in my face for about a year. It became apparent that I needed to do a book on all the UNWANTED horses of the country, the old ones, the lame ones, the ones nobody wanted, to show people what a disposable society we have become, especially with our animals. I went to 24 rescue sanctuaries around the country, and met some of the most amazing horses! I was taking some workshops on Equine Assisted Therapy from Linda Kohanov in Arizona. She had gotten to know me and offered to make an introduction to her book publisher, thinking they would like my work and might be interested doing a book of my work. I didn’t really plan it, it was offered to me. And the published loved my work!
TFS: Are planning on publishing any other books in the future?
TS: Yes, I JUST finished putting a new book together that will be published by a German Publisher named Teneues. They do a lot of coffee table books. This one is just called “Horses” by Tony Stromberg, and will be released in August, I believe. It is a German publisher, but will be distributed in 70 countries, including the US. They did a great job putting it together. Lots of horses from Europe, as well as the US.
TFS: Are you planning on having any workshops on the east coast?
TS: No, not yet, but I am wanting to explore more. I have lived in the west my whole life, and the east coast is is like another country to me. I am not sure where to start, but maybe Florida…Ocala or Wellington or??
TFS: Any wise words for aspiring photographers?
TS: Practice, practice, practice, but have fun as you do it. Play, experiment, try new thing, get out of the box.
TFS: Is there something you would like to photograph but haven’t yet?
TS: CATS!!! I love cats. Big cats and small cats. I would love to do a book on cats, in my own unique style…
Thank you for joining us on #equinearthour, Tony! I can hardly wait to see where else your journey takes you and your camera 🙂