The Art of Sable Island

The Art of Sable Island

Sable is one of those rare places where nature’s footprint is so unique that it wraps you up in wonder and awe at its majesty. As an artist, I look to capture scenes that couldn’t be taken anywhere else, which means this remote island is my ideal subject.

Reflection on a Place

That Makes No Promises

There is something romantic about a location that doesn’t adhere to the normal standards of scheduling and order; Sable Island is exemplary of this irreverence. From accessing the island (you quite literally have to wait for an opening in the clouds to land) to what sort of weather you can expect in a day (thunderstorms so violent you can’t leave the research station while the island’s dunes slowly reshape over the years), you can’t guarantee a thing.

Like Sable Island and throughout all the places I travel, there is one element in common. These locations all but force you to live in the moment and to focus on what is exactly in front of you. I thrive on this feeling of being so far from home and completely off the grid where your thoughts are the only distraction from the moment you’re in.

A Minimalist's Dream

There are very few wild horse populations left on Earth,

and for my work I narrow the scope of possibility down even further. I’ve always been drawn to simple, monotone backdrops that let the subjects be the focus. While this can be recreated with the use of a backdrop, my true desire is to find places where the natural atmosphere can create the ambiance and mood without my intervention. The near-constant fog on Sable Island does exactly that.

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Sable Island is 13 sq. miles and home to 500 wild horses yet despite their numbers and the miniscule size of the island, finding them can be quite a challenge. The walk to the beginning of the Eastern spit from the station can take 6+ hours yet it is only a few miles because each step in the damp sand begets way less distance traveled as the ground sinks away below your feet.

Each morning at first light, we’d set out hoping for the best because the horses on Sable can be everywhere or seemingly nowhere at all. There are days where I’ve come across hundreds of horses, and those where I’ve seen a mere handful. I am in search of documenting a very specific feeling and scene within my images, and this doesn’t happen without the perfect confluence of nature. Since the terrain is very different across the island, I am always on the hunt for scenes that marry the island’s unique geography and the horse’s chosen grazing spots.


A View To Remember

At this point, I’ve got a clear idea of the best places to be so that the island’s isolated shores can help me create the minimalist images I desire. There is one vantage point I always return to that reveals the majesty of these horses in all their glory, and it is looking out against the sea on the Eastern spit with the horses in the foreground and only a crisp ivory layer of sand in the middle. This framing lets the wildness shine and there is nowhere else in the world these images are possible. Of course, this is the hardest point to reach on the island so getting there is physically demanding - and incredibly rewarding.

The Impossible Made Possible

I like capturing scenes that couldn’t have been taken anywhere else, where nature’s footprint is so unique that it wraps you up in wonder and awe at its majesty. Sable Island embodies everything that is great about our natural world from its inhabitants to its isolated yet teeming-with-life location.

As a symbol for both resilience and fortitude, there is nowhere else like it in the world.

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