In 2012, Neil Latham was driving through the horse country of New York State. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the muscular shoulder of a horse standing by a fence. He hit the brakes and stared—something about the horse’s pose, a mixture of great strength and elegance, struck him. Then he reached for his camera, wanting to be able to revisit that moment again.
This singular image started an obsession. Latham spent the next three years traveling across the United States photographing Thoroughbreds. He slowly gained the trust of horse owners and trainers, convincing them to let him photograph their priceless racehorses. Latham sketched ideas and explored the best lighting and photographic technique to use. He lugged film, a large-format camera, and a 20-foot-tall, 36-foot-wide backdrop. To gain access he slept in groom dorms at the Saratoga Race Course and tent-camped at Kentucky Horse Park. He observed the horses in training and at play, studying their anatomy, movements and behaviour in order to anticipate their actions. “I wanted to capture the animal’s form and essential qualities and so I had to live it,” he says. The journey kept him spellbound and determined to get at the crux of substance and spirit of the American Thoroughbred.