All The Pretty Huţuls
Monday March 11th, 2013
by Maria Luci
Photographer Manuela Stefan‘s style can be described as photojournalistic with a touch of fine art. Her images capture people and places artfully, but it’s her years photographing horses that really make her portfolio stand out.
Growing up around her grandfather’s horses, Manuela is passionate about these beautiful creatures. She finds a “deep sense of peace” when photographing horses, and focuses her efforts on documenting their vibrant spirits. As a Romanian, Manuela often travels to her native country to visit family and friends. The passion and connectedness of Romanians to their land and horses continually inspires her, and the country is the backdrop to much of her photography, including a recent photo series, capturing a unique breed of horse.
Last December, Manuela once again visited Romania to photograph horses. Her initial plans were put on hold though, after viewing a television program about the Huţul horses of Lucina. According to Manuela, “the locals are extremely proud of this horse, which is so relevant to their existence in the area. They make sustained efforts to preserve the breed by carefully and selectively working with the blood lines. I had to go meet these horses and their dedicated caretakers.” After some additional research, she made her way to the Northeastern Romanian Carpathians to Lucina Stables, a place that Manuela describes as “a cradle of serenity.”
Lucina Stables was first opened in the 1850’s, by the Austrian Colonel Martin Von Hermman for the equine needs of the Austrian army. Their horses, the Huţul, are still raised there to this day and are known for their exceptional adaptability, strength, and agility. The breed is currently protected by the Romanian Government, living on an expansive piece of land where they’re allowed to roam free. Upon arriving there, Manuela met with the generous people who watch after these horses, and was able to get a “creative glimpse into their fascinating and inspiring world.”
During her time at Lucina, Manuela spent a lot of time photographing around sixty Huţul horses. “The energy around the group was simply extraordinary, ” says Manuela, who loved seeing the animals run through their extremely large paddocks, traversing creeks and snowy hillsides. Even through knee-deep snow and the challenges of attempting to anticipate the herd’s behaviors and directions, Manuela was able to capture a beautiful series of these unique horses. The experience was overwhelming, and she found it hard to leave,
While in Lucina, I had one mare in particular following me around to the point where I could not even take photos as she was beside me all the time. Before leaving on my last day I went to say goodbye to my four-legged friends. She came to me, and while I was caressing her face, more of her friends joined and it all turned into some strange, beautiful, emotional procession. I was overwhelmed and had tears rolling down my face. I did not want to go.
Manuela plans on submitting the images to equine magazines while also exhibiting some of her favorites in large format at galleries and events. She concludes that “the experience truly brought my vision to a new level. It shifted the way I look at my equine work and is helping me imagine new adventures.”
View more of Manuela’s photography at manuelastefanphoto.com.