Stronghold of Resistance:
This short film takes viewers to the shores of Sable Island, a small strip of land less than a mile-wide whose only full-time inhabitants are wild horses; no human attempts at colonization have ever succeeded. Director & Photographer Drew Doggett examines Sable through its never-ending cycles of birth and rebirth, with a narrator who is anonymously-enmeshed within the island as its pervasive voice. Drew partnered with co-director Benny Nicks, whose celebrated work has been shown at the Tribeca Film Festival as well as with Christopher Ward, a multi-platinum, Oscar, and Grammy-winning composer to create an original score for the film.
Located off the coast of Nova Scotia, Sable Island is where one of the last herds of wild horses roam—and photographer Drew Doggett has made it his mission to capture them on film. We’ve been fans of Drew’s for quite some time, and his latest work does not disappoint. Having honed his craft since high school, Drew is known for black-and-white images with an enduring, dreamlike quality. And he’s trained his lens on more than just horses: The photographer has traveled to Africa, sailed across seas, and climbed to remote snow-covered locales to get the perfect shot (check out his other series, including his first foray to Sable Island, here).
With the release of his second Sable Island series, we checked in with Drew to chat about the passion behind his art, his recent foray into filmmaking, and his continued love affair with Sable Island’s majestic creatures.
How has photography impacted your life?
I was introduced to photography at a young age, so it’s been a driving force for years now. My father is an architect, and through his work I became fascinated with line, texture, and form. I can vividly remember being young and traveling with my family in Italy and sneaking away with my camera in hand. It felt so powerful to be able to document this place that was entirely new to me. Since then, photography has been the gateway that’s allowed me to learn from other cultures. I have an unquenchable thirst for discovery, and I’m committed to capturing the most remarkable people, places, and subjects on earth. Photography allows me to do this.
When was the first time you picked up a camera?
I remember enrolling in my first black-and-white camera course at the beginning of high school. I came home that night ecstatic about the prospect of exploring the medium and asked my brother to sit for portraits. I grabbed an Edison bulb to light my impromptu studio, and the resulting images ended up being my first portraits ever. I remember exploring the effects of the adjustments of light and the way it would reshape my brother’s face. In that moment the incredible depth of the photography world seemed to unfold in front of me.
What’s the story behind this new Sable Island series?
Sable Island is an incredibly layered, complex place; you can’t possibly digest its intricacies in one visit. After I left there the first time, I promised myself I would return, which is how this new body of work came to be. The horses of Sable Island have a remarkable history, and it deserves multiple chapters. I thought of my second trip there as a way to continue the story and to further capture the personalities of the horses. Going back, I knew I also wanted to tell the story in motion, which is why I made a film about the island in addition to the photographs.
What gives black-and-white photography its power?
Black-and-white photography is timeless, and I want my images to feel the same. It draws attention to form, tone, and the details that count. It also equalizes subjects—the focus becomes more on the person or place and developing an understanding. In a way, it’s more intimate than other forms of photography.
What’s your editing process like?
Editing happens after the photographs are taken, but in my work it also takes place in the beginning during the selection of story, narrative, and subject. My process starts months, maybe even years, before I pick up the camera. The eventual series’ works are carefully chosen for impact, but I’ve developed other ways of creating a larger “edit” to satisfy the narrative. This is another reason I’ve also incorporated filmmaking into my practice in the past few years.
What advice do you have for someone starting his or her own art collection?
Buy what you love. Buy something you can look at every single day. Really, it’s that simple.
Tell us more about your Sable Island film.
For this film, I imagined the island as having its own persona. Sable has so much character in and of itself that I wanted to tell the story from the island’s perspective. The horses are wild and untamed, but so is the island, and it is a huge part of their narrative—I explore this relationship in the film. Since there is very limited access to Sable Island, it was also important to me to create a dynamic portal to its shores for those who may never be able to travel there.