Profile of Diana Vowles: Equine photographer

Equine photographer with an eye for sound

Diana grew up in the Lake District that fact alone explains her awareness of of nature in all its complexities. Such an environment can, as it did for the painters of the romantic period, Turner, Girtin, Cotman and Constable, stimulate a sense of the sublime and of pastoral beauty.

The sublime is that which becomes pure, that which strikes at the very heart of what an artist is all about, scratching beneath the surface without ruffling the water yet finding an essence, a purity of emotion.

It has been sort by many a good photographer, Salgado is one who springs to mind, Cartier Bresson, Ansel Adams, to name a few. What they are seeing is captured by means of abstraction. Artists who developed the power of polarizing, focusing on an idea, creating an image that draws one to share an emotion that may or may not normally match with the image in the natural world, have, in my opinion, taken that important step to immortality. Such images of, for example a horse whose body has been captured to resemble a landscape draw us to recognize the power of association and through association a deeper understanding of the world we live in.

p-ivan6If Diana was raised with such views as can be found in the Lake District; of hills bleached by the sun rolling away into mist, of sunsets that glazed the rocks and lakes, with detail and grandeur, it isn’t hard to understand why she has chosen to work in such a time consuming and old fashioned method. Traditional silver gelatin printing in the darkroom, platinum printing and intaglio etching are simply too time consuming for most photographers today. This puts her work into the category of art.

The Romantic painters would have agreed with her that to convey grandeur one needs time, one needs to process the information, to conceal the unnecessary to give back to nature what nature has taken millennia to form. What we are seeing when we look at her work is a skillful manipulation of time, tone, focus and of nature itself.

p-nab128_5She is self-taught although she consolidated her knowledge of photography at Kensington and Chelsea College, London. Her love of horses has remained a driving force and she has dedicated herself to portraiture in all its aspects and subjects matter.

Her photographs of Ivan reveal a feeling for not only a profound understanding of the beauty of equus and also of the sounds without which these images would not be so powerful. We can almost hear the snort that is emitting from Ivan nostrils, his feeling of self-aggrandizement by stretching his neck outward in a gesture of communication. You can hear the hoof beats on the grass as Nabucco gallops away.

Sound is in photography, Salgado captures it with his photographs of Chinese bicycles, with his gold mine in Brazil, you can hear the groans of struggling men, you can hear the squelching mud beneath their feet. There is more than just an image in these photographs, there is also a sense of place, of heat, or cold of sound of silence. These are sublime images, they encompass a depth of meaning a certain subtlety captured by a clever lens.

Diana was invited to exhibit in a group show at the Manège Exhibition Hall in St Petersburg in 2008, and her photograph Images of Ivan #6 was used to publicize the show on the banner outside the building and on posters all over that historic and beautiful city. When she saw her photograph of Ivan on the train carriage wall in St Petersburg, she felt a pricking tear of emotion. Yes there is emotion too, a sense of moment, of harmony, of triumph within these captured moments in which the horse is once again a purveyor of spirit, an animal whose mere existence as our friend and carrier has transported us to that other realm where only the initiate can go.


2009: Affordable Art Fair, London
2008: St Petersburg Photo Vernissage, Manège Central Exhibition Hall, St Petersburg, Russia
2006: The Exhibition Centre, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
2005: Avantgarde Gallery, St John’s Wood, London


Caroline Baldock © 2009