As the Vermont Summer Festival, aka the Dorset Horse Show, enters the second half of its run, and the Saratoga Racetrack starts its storied and tradition-laden racing meet through the end of August, horses are also the subject of a new art exhibit scheduled to open at Tilting at Windmills Gallery this weekend.
Lisa Cueman, a photographer from Dorset, will present an exhibit of 13 new "chromogenic" photographs, all made recently within the past 14 months. Her show is a study of the horses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, descendants of Spanish Mustangs originally brought to America during the 1700s. Though protected and living primarily on islands off the mainland coast, they run wild and free; sometimes playfully, sometimes not so much, as Cueman's photographs depict.
A chromogenic print is made using a process involving high-output lasers where digital files are burned directly onto photographic materials at an exceptionally high resolution, according to Cueman. She supervises the process, which resulted in many trips back and forth between here and the photolab in New York City, where the prints were produced.
Cueman made three trips to the Outer Banks of North Carolina over the past year to create the original photographs that led to this exhibit, and the project merged not only her love of photography, but also a lifelong passion for horses as well as her upbringing on Bermuda. More to the point, the exhibit sheds light on the ways wild horses and humans can peacefully co-exist, she said in an e-mail response to a series of questions.
"There is a mindset in the (local) community that these horses are a national asset, not to mention their historical significance," she stated. "I'd like to think there is much to celebrate in the preservation of these herds and setting foot on their home turf is nothing but an uplifting experience."
The technical challenges to making these exposures are several. They come after devising ways to get close enough to the horses to shoot tight, close-up shots of them. What happens before a camera's shutter is tripped is often as significant as the "decisive moment." In Cueman's case, that meant lugging often heavy camera equipment through watery conditions, figuring out ways of offsetting the glare of the sun, and being mindful of the (unlikely, but not unheard of) possibility of lurking sharks.
"Photographing around water presents many, many challenges but also provides for dramatic action such as in the image "The Battle," Cueman states. "I see it as all good. (You) just need to be careful and have everything insured."
Observation is a key component to successful photography. The more you know about your subject, the better able you will be when it comes to predicting behavior that might lead to a riveting image, she said.
Such was the case with "Battle," she recalled. It was exposed during her last trip to the Outer Banks barely a month ago. May and June are the breeding seasons and there is typically more than the usual amount of posturing going on between the competing stallions. But she had noticed the two stallions in the picture that resulted in "Battle" were more intense than usual.
"On this particular day, the exchanges of snorts, squeals and posturing erupted into an all-out display with neither stallion relenting," she said, describing kicking, rearing and biting that ensued between the pair. "Remarkably, both stallions showed no signs of injury from this particular expression of stallion behavior."
Cueman's exhibit, "Captives of the Wild; The Horses of the Outer Banks," opens Saturday, July 27, with an artist's reception from 4 to 6 p.m. Cueman will lead a discussion about the horses and the exhibit, beginning at 5 p.m.
Tilting at Windmills Gallery is located at 24 Highland Ave., near the corner of Depot Street. For more information, call the gallery at 802-362-3022.