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“Tenderness” by Roberto Dutesco

Photograph of a stallion and mare nuzzling from a book called The Wild Horses of Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia

“Tenderness” by Roberto Dutesco


This shot was done in 1994 on Sable Island. It was June, and I was there for a couple of days. This was my very first experience on Sable Island. I went there with a limited knowledge of what to expect and what I encountered was a lot of love and a lot of affection, a lot of curiosity, and a lot of emotion shared in front of the camera. Since these are wild horses, they live outside human interference, and they also live outside fear. That is something that is extraordinary because you know in our daily lives we are confronted by fear constantly. On Sable Island, there are no consequences, nobody to run you over, nobody to tell you to move or to stop. So there is a sense of peaceful existence on Sable Island that I haven’t encountered anywhere else. It is unique to Sable Island; this peacefulness; this absence of fear.

This image was done at high noon. Obviously it’s backlit, and the composition was a decision in terms of how you shoot it and how you flare it and how much information you actually give to the viewer. In origin, it’s a black-and-white image, and we added the tone on top to bring out that sense of warmth that the time of day had to offer and also the sense of warmth that was in the connection between the two horses. What I look at it as a I look at it right now, is that from afar, if you look at the image very fast you don’t even realize that they are two horses. From the many images that I have taken, I think that I have a handful of favorites, not more than perhaps five, and this one stays at the top of the list as one of my favorites because it offers a pause. Even in the life of Sable Island, in which there is so much activity, it offers a moment of unspoken silence. Ultimately, this photograph became to be known with the title of “Tenderness,” and I don’t give names to photographs, but sometimes names simply show up.

I only shoot film. I don’t shoot color, and I don’t shoot digital. At the time, in 1994, it was an F3. It was one of those original 300mm f/2.8 lenses. I remember when I had first heard the price, I kind of got shocked! But it’s also an extraordinary lens. Now lenses are getting made in many different ways, while that lens weighs two or three kilos. I do still carry that lens and, funny enough, I shoot with it 20 years later. It’s kind of extraordinary when you think about it, all the beating that that lens has had.

Cover for The Wild Horses of Sable Island by Roberto Dutesco on teNeus Publishing

Cover for “The Wild Horses of Sable Island” by Roberto Dutesco on teNeus Publishing


I’m working now on a giant project called the Mobile Museum, which is going to take the experience of Sable Island to places around the world. For over 20 years now, I have been shooting in many different formats. I shot in Mini DV and I shot in VHS. I shot with the first high-definition cameras. And now into 4K! But I’ve always stayed constant with the grainy aspect of film, and it’s going to be interesting, this next film, which is coming out hopefully in about a year where all of these mediums of motion pictures over 20 years are going to be combined, so that’s a very interesting project for me!

This experience is an extraordinary experience that very few people have had. I feel very fortunate to be privileged in a world in which men have no say, and for me to have been documenting these horses for such a long time, and for it to become a life project. This is more than just photography of the wild, it’s photography of “who we are!” This image specifically is one aspect in terms of who we are, not just people or animals, but what this world is about. There is a lot of emotion and a lot of tenderness that exists, that we are part of, but sometimes we forget. It surrounds and it envelops us in many different ways. Photography captures those moments and brings them to you as they have here. That’s the beauty in terms of what Sable Island is, what this project is. I hope that this new project, the Mobile Museum, will enchant many people around the world as it starts traveling. – Roberto Dutesco

The Wild Horses of Sable Island is available here. For more information on the Mobile Museum project or for prints, visit Dutesco’s website at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. See his motion work including several videos concentrating on the Wild Horses of Sable Island at Vimeo.

Chasing Wild Horses

from Roberto on Vimeo.