This holiday season, we’re excited to introduce Pomegranate, a publishing and printing company that offers its customers “art you can bring home.” In celebration of Pomegranate’s commitment to inclusivity, we’re excited to spotlight some of the brilliant women artists in their catalogue. Read more about Pomegranate below.
When looking at photographer Susan Friedman’s horses, you feel the power of each equine subject jumping out of the frame. Like portraits of people, each photograph of a horse has its own unique personality.
Susan works in both still photography and motion picture modalities. Her films cover diverse topics from the Universe, to horses, to slack key guitar and more. She even acted in Martin Scorsese’s first film Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967).
Susan now lives on a farm with 31 horses plus a host of other animals. I was thrilled to get a chance to talk with her about her work.
ES: How did you get interested in the arts?
Susan Friedman: It’s kind of a couple of funny stories. I was deemed to be “a student” and my sister was seen as “an artist.” She had the art room and if you snuck in and tried to use any of her equipment, she was horrible! So, I went back to my little hole where I did a lot of reading.
But when I was living in New York City – right out of university – my hairdresser was a photographer. I looked up there in his window. There was this incredible photograph of dancers, painted black one side and painted white on the other.
I was so intrigued. I said, “Oh my god, Mark, I’ve got to study with you.” And it turns out he was teaching at the New School, and he invited me to his loft and we drank wine and looked at Henri Cartier-Bresson.
It was a turning point, really. I drove across the country, borrowing my sister’s camera, and photographed all the way, and I was hooked.
ES: What was it about Mark’s photo that intrigued you so much?
Susan Friedman: It was an abstract picture in a way. It was evocative of a dance without being overtly: “This is a dancer.” It really spoke to me.
ES: How does your filmmaking influence your still photography and vice versa?
Susan Friedman: With filmmaking, it’s the frame. It’s the sequencing, and I carried that over with the horses a lot. I try not to get the generic horse standing in the field. I try to really get to know the personality of the horse. I spend a lot of time with them before I shoot. I’ve done a lot of things with sequencing as they come out of the camera, just to see what they look like. So, I think it carries over – it’s all vision, film and photography. I think that’s a wonderful marriage.
And if you’re really serious about a project, you’re going to carry it all the way through. How many ways can you explore that subject matter? And when you cross mediums, exciting things happen.
ES: In photography and film, some people distinguish between art and documentary. How do you see your work?
Susan Friedman: You explore a subject any way you can. What I want to do is show things that haven’t been seen before. So how do you do that? That’s the challenge. I think it’s important to document and also be an artist in a different way.
“…the series I did on just the torsos of the horse, I wanted to take it out of the romantic idea of the horse to more abstract painterly work. I thought of the torso as a canvas…”
For instance, the series I did on just the torsos of the horse, I wanted to take it out of the romantic idea of the horse to more abstract painterly work. I thought of the torso as a canvas, and it changes. The jockey gets off. You see his impression on the horse. You see the stirrups marks. You see his veins from having been worked. That’s exciting to me. It’s changing the way we look at something, and at the same time documenting it.
ES: In Making Art of Life (the documentary about your life and work), you mention that you had to learn to properly photograph a horse. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
Susan Friedman: My friend Jane taught me some riding. I did a lot of riding on a horse named Carly. And I used to go over there, and we started photographing in a very low light in the barn and taking portraits of the horses.
Jane would yell at me: “The neck needs to be arched; the ears are all wrong, the position is wrong; the butt’s out.” And I’m going: “All the stuff I need to learn about how to photograph a horse.” Then you learn that and then you forget that and move on. You experiment and see where that goes.
But still today, I’m always trying to get the eye in focus and ears forward, because it’s more beautiful. It’s more lyrical.
ES: How did you start working with Pomegranate?
Susan Friedman: I think I’ve been doing it for 12 years or something. I was teaching at the university and my rep knew the woman who then owned Pomegranate and took my work there.
They’re wonderful and the annual calendar continues. It’s been a really great experience because it keeps me working in a way. I go out and say: “Oh my god, this horse would be great for the calendar!”
It’s very different from a lot of my work with horses. It’s very different when you’re doing something for a calendar than your own photography.
ES: Could you explain the difference between the calendar photography and your other work?
Susan Friedman: I think there’s a lot more abstract stuff that’s been coming out. In my photo “Pegasus,” the horse is twisting and you get sort of a sculptural effect. They’re not calendar images per se, because you don’t see the whole full beauty of the horse; you just get a sense of the shapes.
I think there’s a specific look to my calendar. I’m not gonna say they’re sappy sweet: “Oh, look. It’s a pretty horse in the flowers.” It’s not like that.
ES: What do you want people to take away from your work?
Susan Friedman: One thing I think is important is seeing what’s invisible to other people. There’s something in the horses that evokes what humans have lost in a way – that spirit and sense of wildness. I think horses take us there in a way.
Check out Susan’s amazing 2022 Equus calendar here!
Remember, the artist receives a greater portion of the proceeds if you buy directly from Pomegranate.
© Elisa Shoenberger (12/20/21) Special for FF2 Media®
Check out Susan’s Instagram.
Watch Making Art of Life (a short film about her life) on Vimeo.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Images from Pomegranate’s 2022 Susan Friedman calendar have been provided by Pomegranate and are used here by FF2 Media with their permission. All Rights Reserved by Pomegranate.
Photo of Susan (taken in France by Bianca McCarty) was provided by Susan and is used with her permission. All rights reside with her. Thanks, Susan!