Award-winning animal photographer Esther Marie Towler is working on an exciting new art project, Wild Hearts, which focuses on Britain’s native breed horses and ponies.
She recently spent time photographing the semi-wild Fell ponies in Cumbria and was fascinated by how they co-exist with their human neighbours, exhibiting both an endearing curiosity and a fiercely wild spirit.
Esther, of Newhay, near Rochdale, has a passion for capturing animals on film and her fine art is inspired by the emotions evoked when observing horses in their most natural state.
“I am fascinated by the strength and power as well as the vulnerability of these majestic animals,” she said.
Esther hopes Wild Hearts will raise the profile of the Fell ponies as well as other native breeds, some of which are facing possible extinction. With a passionate message of conservation at its heart, the project’s aim is to encourage people to support these vulnerable breeds, either by protecting them in their natural environment or by buying a registered pony – a step which could help save these rare breeds.
Esther has been overwhelmed by the support for Wild Hearts from horse and art lovers alike.
She said: “I have received so many messages from people telling me about herds of native breed horses or ponies in their local area as well as from people who own rare breeds and who have offered to have them photographed. The support of the horse world and the wider community who live side by side with these beautiful animals has been quite overwhelming.”
Once the project is complete there will be a gallery show and the photographs will be collated into a stunning fine art book.
Esther works on her fine art projects alongside her personal commissions. With 20 years’ experience in her chosen field she specialises in equine and pet photography and travels extensively working with both domestic and wild animals.
Esther’s passion for photography began at an early age when she was given her first camera by her grandfather. She was mesmerised by the idea of capturing moments in time and preserving them on film.
Her love of photography never left her and she went on to study the craft at West Glamorgan University. When a childhood passion for horses was rekindled, Esther found she wanted to combine these two great loves in her life.
So, after training with some of the best photographers in the industry, she set up her own business specialising in domestic animal and equine photography as well as equine fine art photography.
Esther explains what it is about animals that she finds so enticing: “Animals fascinate me – their often human expressions, their curiosity, fearless optimism and their captivating beauty all make my heart leap with joy.”
She works with a wide variety of clients engaging in private equine and pet commissions. When engaged in projects with domestic pets or horses and their owners, she aims to capture the emotional connection between them.
“As animal lovers and owners, we share a very special bond with our animals, an almost spiritual connection,” she says. “As an observer of that bond I find it my greatest privilege to be able to capture that on film. When an owner tells me that my images epitomise the relationship between them and their animal, I feel a great sense of fulfillment.”
Esther speaks about the unique challenges posed by working with animals, whether domestic or wild, in the studio or on location: “On a shoot there is always a need for humour, pragmatism and endless patience. But each animal and commission is unique meaning that every day is a fresh opportunity to capture another special moment. Creating timeless images which reflect the true spirit of the horse and their emotional connection with their human is what drives me.”