Interview | Tom Porter: Maverick Mustangs of the Salt River!
Award-winning photographer and video producer Tom Porter has been showcasing his photography and video exhibit “Maverick Mustangs of The Salt River!“in an effort to bring much needed awareness to the plight of wild horses in Salt River, Arizona and the American West that are currently being targeted by the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for removal.
These beautiful creatures are rounded up on public lands using helicopter, then unceremoniously auctioned for slaughter by the thousands. Most recently exhibited at MRG Fine Art in Los Angeles, Porter will be exhibiting his photos and film on April 16, 2016 at the Coachella Valley Horse Rescue, a perfect time for attendees of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival to drop in and contribute to the fight.
Crave: What inspired you to make Maverick Mustangs of the Salt River!, and how do you hope this show helps the wild horses?
Tom Porter: A horse holocaust is taking place in our American West by our own federal government. Tens of thousands of horses are being shipped to and brutality slaughtered in Mexico and Canada. The wild horses of the Salt River were being targeted and had been several times in the past and I had an opportunity to travel with the leading world expert on wild horses, Craig C. Downer, author of the Wild Horse Conspiracy. The photographs and video documentary would bring public attention to the wild horse’s plight and if they were to be slaughtered at least there would be a photograph record of their lives. If the public knows about the situation of this tragedy, the people will stop it. Once the American heart and spirit see this injustice they will stop it. Recently the public outcry was so great that the Salt River horses were saved again, but they have been threatened several times in the past and unless we can have a permanent solution for all horses they may come under attack again.
“Once the American heart and spirit see this injustice they will stop it.”
How did you go about capturing these images?
I spent a week in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest and took 100s of photos. Like any wild animal, these horses were very skittish and were frightened and ran away if they detected us. We had to be very quiet and patient photographing them. In these adventures of long hours in the wilderness I was able to photograph other interesting animals such as deer, roadrunners, birds and insects. Craig and I spent two days looking for these horses and another 5 days photographing them. On the 5th and last day the horses were getting used to our presence and they approached us. I lay down so I would not be considered a threat and a horse actually came to me and I was able to touch it.
As a photographer, how do you connect with animals? You also produce Animal Consciousness, what is the purpose of that show?
I have always had a strong connection with animals. I had a wide variety of pets as a child, including birds, turtles, lizards, chickens, insects and of course dogs and cats. I was given a pet duck on Easter but several months later my mother decided to serve it for Sunday dinner. I was horrified and became a vegetarian at an early age and pledged to help animals whenever I could.
Animal Consciousness, People Helping Animals, and People Helping the Planet is an original documentary series dedicated to the protection of animals and their natural habitats. Animal Consciousness examines the plight of non-human beings both in captivity and in the wild and spotlights the individuals and organizations dedicated to helping animals and our planet. Animal Consciousness recognizes that animals have unique personalities, states of consciousness and emotional lives that may be different than those of human beings, but are no less valid.
What other kinds of projects are you working on for the future?
I had worked for the Cabrillo Aquarium photographing marine mammals, specializing in grey whales and at Marineland of the Pacific as an educator and researcher. I produced the Guide to Whale Watching and went to Mexico and the Sea of Cortez several times to photograph marine mammals. I hope my next exhibition will be on the Sea Otters of Northern California and possibly elephant seals.
What do you hope to capture in your photographs of the mustangs?
The Maverick Mustangs of the Salt River are incredible creatures. I had a great opportunity to capture the beauty, free spirit of these amazing animals.