The Horse Rider's Journal

Brian Doherty captures the legendary Laytown Races

The photographer shares his images from Ireland’s historic beach event and speaks to us about his work and how he stumbled into portraying the world of horses and the people around them.

TEXT Stacey Streshinsky PHOTOGRAPHY Brian Doherty

In a world where every other person is obsessed with painstakingly planning each minute of their lives and fulfilling all of their ambitions, from the tiny-little ones to the let’s-talk-about-the-elephant-in-the-room-sized ones (question: what’s the largest size ambitions come in?), it’s easy to forget that sometimes the best things happen when you just go with the flow. The story of Dublin-born photographer Brian Doherty is a testament to that.

For seven years after graduating from school, Doherty worked on the railway in Ireland. In 2007 he left Dublin to come to London where a series of various gigs led him to work at a photography studio, where he assisted numerous fashion photographers (Willy Vanderperre, Roger Deckker, Boo George). After four years of assisting he decided that the fashion world wasn’t one he wanted to fully immerse himself in and, harnessing his interest in “how people live their lives”, he pursued documentary photography.

Doherty’s photographs possess a cinematic quality, drawing the viewer into the atmosphere of the events he documents. He has an eye for genuinely interesting subjects, and a curious sense of warmth towards them translates through the images. Equestrianism isn’t necessarily a central theme in Doherty’s work, but from time to time he finds himself drawn to horses and the humans around them, like the story he shot in Nevada of the Reno Rodeo, which appeared in the SS16 issue of The Horse Rider’s Journal.

When Doherty recently returned from a trip to Ireland with the beautiful images seen here of the Laytown Races – run since 1868 as the only beach race event held under official rules – we jumped at the chance to speak to him about them and his work at large.

What draws you to horses and horsemen as subjects?

I don’t think I consciously decided to make that a theme in my work. First and foremost I am interested in people. With the Reno Rodeo series I had been travelling around Nevada and stumbled upon it. The people around the rodeo seemed quite responsive to the idea of me taking photographs. So I stayed a few days and got to know more about the Rodeo riders and their culture.

And the Laytown Races?

I was in Ireland visiting family when I realised that the races were on, so I got  in touch with the organisers because I felt that it would be a very photogenic sporting event. Plus, I am generally interested in how old traditions and institutions carry on in today’s society.

Do you ride yourself?

I don’t — I’ve never been on a horse in my life!

Do you have any sort of relationship to horse racing?

I don’t personally. I’ve never had a great interest in it growing up, but Ireland has a long-spanning equestrian culture and tradition and I was always aware of that. A lot of my friends and family have a big interest in that world so I have picked up a certain knowledge along the way.

Do you have any further plans for horse-related series?

Yes, I recently visited a famous horse trainer in Ireland to document his stables and jockeys, among other commissions.

For more of Brian Doherty’s work, please visit briandoherty.co.uk