One of the last great mysteries of the Atlantic, Sable Island is home to a mystical and resilient herd of wild horses. These equines piqued acclaimed photographer Drew Doggett’s interest and quickly became his muse. Here, he discusses his photography journey, his affinity for Sable Island and more.
How did you get into photography?
I became interested in photography at a young age. My father was an architect and hobbyist photographer, and I think that helped inform my early aesthetic and interest in the medium. By high school, I had discovered the camera’s energizing capabilities, whether in the darkroom or out in the world. My first exposure to the realm of professional photography was assisting local portrait photographers during my time at Vanderbilt University then after graduation in fashion in New York City. For six years, I assisted top fashion photographers, which gave me the technical knowledge and know-how I needed for my own practice.
How would you describe your photography style?
I’ve had my work described as Vogue meets National Geographic, which I really appreciate because I’ve always aimed to mix the aesthetic sensibility of fashion with my love of wild places, animals and cultures. I feel that the result of mixing these two worlds together makes something recognizable but also incredibly new and allows me to highlight and reframe specific aspects of my subjects.
How did you learn about Sable Island?
I first learned about Sable Island when I was researching wild horses at the beginning of my career. I have many happy childhood memories riding horses, and I’ve always been fascinated by the horse as a persistent symbol of fortitude and strength. As soon as I began reading about the Sable Island horses, I was hooked and made it my mission to spend time there. That was nearly 10 years ago, and I’ve since spent countless hours on the island documenting these wild horses that have become my muse. I’ve released two limited-edition print series, a short film and an award-winning book, Wild: The Legendary Horses of Sable Island that Jane Goodall contributed the foreword to.
Has photographing Sable Island taught you any lessons?
Even though the island is very small, it presents more obstacles than most other places when it comes to creating my work. One of the lessons I’ve learned is the art of patience. It’s in my nature to always aim to control as many elements of my shoots as possible, but on Sable Island, this just cannot happen as the horses and the weather don’t lend themselves to any regularity. However, after observing them for so long, I’ve become accustomed to the horses’ rhythms and often know where to find them or what parts of the island will work for the images I want to make. But this in no way constitutes a guarantee of any sort. The island makes no promises!
Anything exciting on the horizon?
I’m going to Svalbard, an archipelago near Norway, in search of polar bears as well as India for tigers. I’m incredibly excited to get back out there after having slowed my pace of travel these past few years due to the pandemic.