PDN: What were you photographing before
you got started with equine portraits?
BOB TABOR: My background is as a creative
director for advertising agencies. For 40 years,
I worked with the best photographers and
directors for TV commercials [at agencies
including] Doyle Dane Bernbach, Wells Rich
Greene, and JWT.
PDN: How did your work as a creative
director influence your photographic style?
B. T.: In my print advertising work, the
negative space was very important, in the way
I would crop an object, and the way your eye
would find that object as the most important
focal point on the page. I do the same thing
now when I [create] a photograph. It’s usually
focused around the body language of the
animal, and the eyes, and that’s what tells
PDN: You show the horses on perfectly clean
backgrounds, either black or blown-out white.
B. T.: Yes, because any color distracts from
the storyline, and all of my photographs are
taken at the worst time of day [in] bright
light. These 1,000-pound animals become
sculptures to me, and I look to find the
positive and negative space with the animal,
from the lighting. I take out the background
[because] it’s distracting. I’m not selling
real estate. I’m selling the emotion, the soul,
of that horse.
PDN: Do you mean you take out the
background in post?
B. T.: Yes, all in post. I don’t want to use any
lights, I don’t want to use any background
paper or anything that [could] make the animal
uncomfortable. In fact, before I photograph
the horse, I’m already playing with my camera.
I let him hear the shutter sounds so when I
hold the camera up to his eye, or very close to
his face, he’s not frightened.
PDN: What camera and lenses do you use?
B. T.: I [use] the 5D Mark II and a few
different lenses, but 90 percent of my work
is with the 70-200. I love the way it brings
everything in to me, and the way it flattens
everything out. It’s so graphic, and so simple.
PDN: What’s a typical shoot like? Do you
have a limited amount of time?
B. T.: I may see something in the horse
immediately and capture it in the first half
hour, or I may be back two or three days. The
horse may be having a bad day, he may be a
little uncomfortable. So I allocate a lot of time.
PDN: Is the horse wrangling a challenge?
B. T.: There’s always somebody from the
stable around [to help]. I need somebody
with me that really has the background
knowledge of the horse.
PDN: Can you describe the clients and
markets you have?
B. T.: It’s horse owners who love their animals.
I’ve flown or driven to all 50 states. And my
work is [displayed] at Ralph Lauren [retail
stores] on four continents.
PDN: How did you get your work into
Ralph Lauren stores?
B. T.: When I was showing some prints to a
stable manager, a gentleman walked in and saw
the photographs. He said, “They’re beautiful,
I love them.” He was a Ralph Lauren home
designer, and that opened up doors for me.
PDN: Is that what got you started
B. T.: I was doing a little bit of commission
work before that, but the commissions
outside the New York area have blossomed
since 2010, when people started seeing [my
work] in Ralph Lauren shops.
PDN: What other marketing do you do?
B. T.: I started to show my work in some of the
galleries on the east end of Long Island, and
WHAT’S YOUR NICHE?
BOB TABOR, HORSE PORTRAITIST
The New York City-based photographer, who took up photography as
a hobby at the age of 60, talks about the fine-art business he has built
from his unusual style of horse portraiture. BY DAVID WALKER
TOP LEFT: Bob Tabor takes commissions for
portraits of horses and sells fine-art prints in
galleries across the U.S. BELOW: Clients hire him
to capture “the emotion, the soul, of that horse,”
he says, a job that might take several days.