Many people don’t know about them, but a photographer has captured the beauty of the wild horses who have lived on Canada’s Sable Island since the 1750s. The 44km-long island, made of sand, is located 160km from the mainland of Nova Scotia in the northwest Atlantic Ocean.
Damian Lidgard, who is originally from Lincolnshire in England, currently works at Dalhousie University as a research scientist who specialises in marine mammals. He first went to Nova Scotia in December 1996 to visit Sable Island to start a pilot project on grey seal behaviour on the island, and to him, it provides a wealth of inspiration.
“For me, Sable Island was of interest because of the seals,” he tells Lonely Planet. “I only heard about the horses once I came to Nova Scotia. I visit Sable Island every year to conduct research on the grey seal colony and, at the same time, I take photographs.”
It wasn’t until 2006 that I began to photograph the wild horses,” he adds. “The reason for taking so long to ‘see’ the horses was because of my focus on research and evolution in my photographic style. In 2006, I began to study contemplative photography and that approach to the art allowed me to ‘see’ more.”
Damian typically goes to Sable Island for two weeks in the summer and then four to six weeks in December and January. The horses on the island are very timid, he says, and while the young ones are curious and will approach him, they are typically directed away by the elders.
“To photograph them requires being patient, quiet and very observant,” he says. “Most of the time, the horses are grazing on grass, so one has to sit, observe and be patient and wait for the special moments to arrive.”
When asked what is so special about the horses, Damian says that he finds it remarkable, as a biologist, that the horses have been able to adapt to the hostile environment of Sable Island. “As a photographer, the horses exude wildness, raw energy and I consider them a reflection of the island: strong, wild, unlikely and, I suppose, grand,” he says.