Life in France’s Camargue region is not for the fragile. Surviving in these vast, salted wetlands where the mighty Rhône meets the sea is a test of endurance and adaptation. Yet for thousands of years, this inhospitable delta on France’s southern coast has been occupied by one of the most exquisite sites the planet has to offer: the Camargue horse.
The origins of this unmistakable breed can be traced all the way back to prehistoric times, and while the world changes around them, the horses of the Camargue persist like ghostly vestiges of the past.
It’s exactly the type of existence that inspires the art of Drew Doggett. The renowned photographer ventured to the Camargue last year to capture these unique animals amidst the swampy canvas. The result is a stunning series entitled Band of Rebels: White Horses of Camargue.
“I’ve always had a passion for horses, particularly breeds that have overcome a set of difficult circumstances or have an interesting lineage. Horses of Camargue fit that perfectly. Their lineage traces back to prehistoric times. The region is extremely harsh, so these animals have adapted to this environment over the course of thousands of years.”
Doggett discovered something else during his time in Camargue; an equally primordial co-existence of horse and human. For as long as the horses have roamed the Camargue, so too have the gardians. Known as the “Cowboys of the Riviera”, gardians have harnessed this feral breed to round up the local bulls. This timeless relationship between the horses and the gardians, forged through thousands of years of desolate co-existence, was too intricate to tell with a series of photographs. Prepare to be amazed:
“A common theme through a lot of my work is studying and documenting cultures or places that are on the verge of disappearance. The gardians is a tradition and lifestyle that has had to, by necessity, adapt very rapidly over the course of the last 50 years.”
“I wasn’t prepared to really understand the level of gravity and importance these horses have to the gardians…There’s a level of care and trustworthiness that can only be achieved through hundreds of years.”
“The light in this region…has a very ethereal feeling to it, particularly when compared to the lily-white coats of these horses.”
“Their eyes are really expressive and there’s a clear sense of hierarchy you can easily see as they race across the landscape.”
“The contrast between the horses’ strength and confidence is evident through defined musculature and a sense of pride that exudes from their posture, and the calm of the background is undeniable. They seem to be blissfully unaware of this stark dichotomy yet have complete ownership of the land around them.”