Carina Maiwald: ‘Horses are like a composition of opposites to me’

Story highlights

Young photographer captures equine beauty

Racehorses photographed in Dortmund

Horses are "gentle ... strong and unshakable"

CNN  — 

In the twilight, the horses at a German track are preparing to race.

As the sun disappears beneath the horizon and the floodlights throw electric light across the all-weather track, Carina Maiwald is poised, eye to the lens, her right index finger ready to release the camera shutter.

The 24-year-old equine photographer wants you to love horses as much as she does – see their specialness, their beauty, their strength.

“Where do I start?” Maiwald tells CNN.

“Horses are like a composition of opposites to me. On the one hand they are so fragile, so innocent and always gentle, but when it comes down to it they are strong and unshakable and incredibly fast.

“They are like survival artists for me. They could crush you within seconds. But they choose to trust us, to work with us, to cooperate. That’s something that inspires me.”

Maiwald has been a full-time photographer for three years.

Maiwald traces her love affair with horses, and animals in general, back to her childhood.

“I grew up with animals – my parents taught me to respect them and they were always a big part of my life,” she explains.

“When I was old enough to go riding, my parents gave me the chance to. It was quite a big deal for me back then. I can remember the first time I sat in the saddle, although sometimes I don’t remember what I had for dinner last week!”

Carina Maiwald

Maiwald began a full-time photography career three years ago, leaving behind a career as a graphic designer for a German newspaper.

“I thought maybe I was too young to get stuck in a job that I didn’t really like,” she says.

“I took some photos of it on a summer evening and the pictures weren’t good, but there was something special … I saw the character of my horse.

“Friends and people from the stables came up to me and said, ‘Hey Carina, that’s really nice, could you try that on my horse too?’ That’s when it all became clear what I wanted to do with my life.”

Maiwald has already earned a reputation for capturing the naturalness of horses.

Maiwald’s atmospheric shots are taken without a flash, using only the natural or artificial light available.

What she creates is sometimes dark, brooding almost, but always blessed by light.

“When you look closely there is always some light in it. My parents taught me that shadows can only exist where light is, so that’s what I’m trying to put into my pictures.”

Her attention to detail is paying off.

Maiwald won an “Honorable Mention Pro” award at last year’s International Photography Awards for her “heart of the racehorse” series and has built up a large following on both Facebook and Instagram.

“Horses are beautiful,” she says. “They are the most incredible animals I have ever laid my eyes on – they have this individuality.

“Horses are very special because they have this open mind – they choose to trust us. When you meet a horse, it will like you – it will be gentle and want to know more about you.”

Maiwald will photograph wild horses in Bosnia later in 2016.

Assignments abroad in Menorca and Bosnia await the young German, who hopes her work will be viewed in a much wider context.

“This whole situation going on in the world right now, (the recent terror attacks in) Belgium and Paris – that totally shakes me up. I don’t think I’m the only one,” Maiwald says.

“I always try to put all those feelings into my pictures and at least when you look at them there is not a horse, but another living being.

“That’s something I would like to see – this small light of hope and wisdom. Maybe that’s why my pictures go around the world. I just think people can see themselves in these pictures too.”

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