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15 May 2013

Honour and Glory

I dropped in to my local Post Office this afternoon. Like my newsagency, it is staffed by regulars who know me, and know what I do. They had put some Black Caviar items aside for me. They seemed so pleased for me, and genuinely proud of the achievement and like me, felt that the horse absolutely deserved to be honoured in such a manner.  It made me think back to the Newmarket Handicap in 2011.  This, and the Lightning Stakes 3 weeks earlier, was the start of the whirlwind for me.

It was on that day, 12 March 2011, that I really thought that the horse was something special, and that I wanted to do more with her than just turn up on raceday and photograph her with the usual suspects.  I wanted to do more.  I wanted to get to know her, and go behind the scenes with her, and find out, both for myself and through the lens, what made her tick.  It was the start of a fairly determined approach to be able to photograph her away from the racetrack.  Which was exactly what I did, from 15 May 2011 onwards.  It took some sheer bloody mindedness and determination, and perseverance.  But I was absolutely determined to do it, and convinced that, both personally and professionally, it would be one of the most important things I would ever do.  

It is true that I have never been the sort of person to sit idly by, and do something conventional.  I used to have a second job at CSIRO, but an office job, doing administration, even work involving writing complex ministerial and other briefs, wasn't satisfying enough for me.  Besides. CSIRO was a horseless desert, and that was always a major obstacle.  Quite simply, my heart wasn't in it.  My photographic work is the realisation of a childhood ambition to work with horses, and to do it well.  I'm not the sort of person who's satisfied doing less.  And having made a decision that being a photographer, and a horse photographer at that, photographing at the highest level was always a prerequisite for me.  I would never be satisfied photographing at low grade, or country meetings, photographing ordinary horses and ordinary meetings.  To quote Bridget Jones “That’s not a good enough offer for me… I’m still looking for something, more extraordinary than that”.

The ride with Black Caviar has been extraordinary.  More so than with any other champion I've photographed, and there's been many of them.  Sunline was probably the closest I came to tackling with the same degree of determination.  Documenting Black Caviar's career has been exhilerating, although at times heartbreaking.  This one horse, with whom my name is now intertwined, has done more for racing and for me, than any other horse is ever likely to do.  I like to hope that when people think back on her and her achievements, that the images I have worked hard at producing, will form a large part of the public record and memory.  Think back to Phar Lap.  There's a few key images of him that are burned into our minds.  I like to hope that it will be the same with the Famous Pony Black Caviar, and that more than one or two of these images will have been taken by me.

My dear friend Lyn Beaumont, who's made painting this great champion an absolute art form, won the 2011 commission for the VRC's Horse of the Year painting.  The subsequent artwork, of Black Caviar, now hangs in the Committee Room.  She mentioned me in her speech, just as Gerard Whateley did at his book launch and again at the recent launch of the Black Caviar stamp and coins.  She said that great imagery helped her produce something special.  And her work of the champion is so very special.  I have seen other painters seek to reproduce the mare, but none does so with the same gentle touch as Lyn.  And quite rightly, her paintings now hang in many of the homes of the horse's owners.  They are all based off my images.  

At the VRC Launch, on VRC Derby Day 2011, I stood next to her partner Neil for the unveiling.  Neil is a smart, ambitious, successful, kind and generous man.  He watched Lyn, with tears of pride in his eyes, without a hint of resentment at her wonderful achievement.  And rightly so.  As I've said in previous posts, Black Caviar has been surrounded by amazing people.  And I consider myself so fortunate to be among them.  We all hope that the magic carpet ride isn't finished yet, and that it's just having a little pause, and a break, before setting off in a new direction.

Lyn's painting.  Find fault.. If you can.....

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