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Return to Freedom: wild horses of America

  • Wed Sep 07 - Mon Oct 10

Turbine Hall

Return to Freedom: wild horses of America

Photographic presentation by Claudia Duijsens

This past March, I discovered an incredible book by legendary equine photographer Tony Stromberg titled “The Forgotten Horses”. I was deeply moved by the hauntingly beautiful images of working class horses from sanctuaries across the United States.

Although the stories behind these horses are disturbing and often tragic, numerous equine rescue organizations and horse sanctuaries are dedicated to providing care and newfound freedom to horses that have been neglected, abandoned and rejected after having outlived their “useful” life to humans.

I was inspired to travel to California in June to attend a week-long workshop with Tony Stromberg at the famous Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc. Established in 1997 and currently home to over 200 wild horses and burros, the American Wild Horse Sanctuary is dedicated to protecting the freedom and natural lifestyle of free ranging wild horses.

It was an incredible opportunity for me to directly experience and document wild horses in their natural habitat and to witness them enjoying a second chance to live a meaningful life.

All of the pieces in this exhibit have been selected from my time spent at the Return to Freedom Sanctuary. In recognition of the important role this organization plays, ten percentage of all sale proceeds from these displayed works will be donated to the Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc. For additional information, please visit

Technical Matters

My philosophy has always been that a photograph should stand on its own and not be overpowered by the style of frame or method of presentation.

In my work, I always strive to capture the pure beauty and emotion of the moment and I want my images to speak freely, without distraction. To that end,

I have explored innovative printing techniques and modern craftsmanship to deliver powerful and classic images, with a contemporary feel.

All of the photographs in this series were printed on aluminum laminate panels in the Netherlands utilizing high-resolution ink-jets and a newly patented transfer process with custom finishes.

About the Artist

Born and raised in the beautiful Netherlands, my passion for photography was immediately ignited when I received my first camera at the age of seven. I began using my new-found hobby to document the playful and unrestrained nature of the animals at the farm where I spent much of my time riding.

I quickly learned that fostering an open sense of wonder and reverence for my subjects was the key to capturing their unique essence – and thus began my photographic journey.

Throughout my childhood, the honesty and spirit of animals and the natural world remained my chosen focus and helped provide a framework and sense of stability growing up in a rapidly changing European nation.

After securing formal training in the hospitality industry in Austria, I spent the first half of my career working in advertising in the Netherlands, satisfying my need for creative expression, albeit within typical corporate constraints. While raising my two children, I actively continued my photographic pursuits which culminated in both my graduation from the rigorous Dutch Photo Academy in 2010 and the widening use of my images in a variety of international publications.

Horses are a part of who I am: I own horses, ride horses, study horses and am continually awed by these radiant and glorious beings. Not surprisingly, I have found my time and attention becoming increasingly focused on the intricate skills and techniques of equine photography and portraiture.

Having relocated in 2010 with my family and horses to a working farm in the equestrian heartland of Ontario, I am now provided with an endless source of daily inspiration. I often use my own lively horses to be the subjects of my photographs and am continually surprised by the depth of their complexity. Happily, I also continue to have the privilege and opportunity to regularly travel throughout Europe and North America, documenting the unique elegance and mystique of these dignified creatures in a wide variety of settings.

It thrills me to capture the noble and uninhibited nature of these animals through a lens - and open a door to this world for others to find inspiration, motivation and quite possibly, salvation.


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