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  • Writer's pictureRobin Black

Tony Stromberg: On Light and Fine Art Equine Photography


A rare interview with one of the world's top fine art equine photographers.

 

"Unicorn" is the title of Tony Stromberg's photograph of a Lusitano stallion taken in southern France.
Unicorn

Where are you from and how does that affect your work?


I grew up all over the west. My dad was a geologist for an oil company, and we moved constantly. 18 homes by the time I was 18. Very nomadic lifestyle, which is probably why I relate so well to the American wild horses… nomadic by nature. Because of all the moving, I became a loner at a pretty

early age. I am sure this has affected my work in many ways. I work best alone. In fact, when I was doing advertising photography, I would go back into the studio after everyone went home at night, and that’s usually when I did my best work. I get distracted when other people are watching and expecting me to perform, to the point where I can’t really focus.


"3 Brothers" by Tony Stromberg is a photograph of Merens breed horses running in a pasture in the Pyrenees region of southern France.
3 Brothers

Who are your biggest artistic influences?


That’s a hard one. There are not specific artists or photographers that I get inspiration from. Rather, I think it is an accumulation of everything I have seen, read, or heard throughout my life that has informed my artistic sensibilities. I also get a lot of inspiration from nature, and being

immersed in nature. I think all good art imitates nature in some way. We live in a very technical world and spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer screen or a phone. I think all the technology dampens creativity, and sometimes the best way to connect with our creative self is to unplug from all the technology and sit in silence so we can actually hear ourselves.


"3 Stallions" is the title of Tony Stromberg's photograph of three young stallions in Spain.
3 Stallions

How has your style changed over time?


It’s always a process. When I started doing advertising work, I was all over the map. I did fashion, food, technology, architecture, still life, catalog work, special effects, landscapes, because I didn’t really know who I was and had not defined my creative voice yet. I experimented a lot. I am completely self-trained in photography, and never went to school. I tried by doing, and by making a lot of mistakes, and learning what NOT to do. Over time, my personal style developed, but it took 20 years to find that. I spent years emulating the popular photographers, only to realize this was not me, and it was not coming from within. What I ultimately came to learn was that I had a deep appreciation for lighting.



"Luminious" is the title of a photograph of a beautiful galloping horse taken by fine art equine photographer Tony Stromberg at a guest ranch in northern Idaho.
Luminous

When I teach workshops, I tell people that they are not photographing a horse, they are photographing the light falling onto the horse. It takes a fundamental shift in understanding to really grasp that concept, but it is all about lighting. Photographers start with a black canvas, and we add light. We literally “paint” with light. After 20 years of studio photography, I learned how to “see” light. I am always looking for the light, so to speak. After I shifted my focus to horses, I realized I could take 20 years of experience in lighting and apply it to something I truly loved.


When is your favorite time of day to photograph horses?


Late afternoon, for sure. Magic hour. The last hour of sunlight is the best. In fact, in that late afternoon light, it is hard to take a “bad” photograph.


What motivates you to continue photographing horses?


I just love horses. I was burned out after 20 years of advertising work. I had lost myself after trying to be so many things and trying to please so many people. It’s a long story for another time, but when I started spending time with horses, they showed me a way back to my authentic self, and that was a huge gift to me. My work, I believe, continues to be an “homage: to the horse". I showed my true self to the horses, and in return, they shared with me their true essence, and that is what I try to convey through my work.


How do you define success as a fine art equine photographer?


When I was doing commercial work, it was constant marketing and it always felt like pushing a boulder uphill. When I started working with horses and started building a body of work with my equine photography, doors would open in front of me without much effort. The sense of struggle was gone. The 4 books I have published all came with little effort. When I started teaching workshops, I created them and people signed up, and it’s been going strong even efter 20 years of doing them. I think “success” is being able to do what you love and also make a living at it, without having to commercialize it or change it to fit someone else’s desire. I have a dream job. I travel the world photographing some of the world’s most beautiful horses, in some very beautiful places, and I get paid for it !!!


What have critics and collectors said about your work?


That’s an odd question. People that collect my work do so because it speaks to them on some level, and they love the work. I don’t think I have any critics, and if I do, I don’t really care what they think. At one point in my life, I would do whatever I could to please them, but not anymore. I know who I am, and I know my work has value. If someone does not like it, they do not have to look at it!


Why do you offer workshops and how do you benefit or find meaning from sharing your artistic mastery with other aspiring equine photographers?


Horses a book by Tony Stromberg fine art equine photographer

After my first book was published, along with calendars, people started to ask me if I would do

workshops, so I thought “why not”. I started doing a few in my hometown of Santa Fe, and it just grew from there. I am happy to share my photographic experience. It gives me joy to see people learning what I have to offer them, and I love to watch them grow artistically, and to find their own voice with their equine photography. They come to me because we all have a shared love of horses and photography and want to share our vision with the world. What’s not to like?



Click on the button to see more of Tony Stromberg's equine images

along with his stories behind these gorgeous photographs.



 





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