The Wild Herd: A Vanishing American Treasure
by Deborah Kalas
Val de Grace Books

"All the while, the high temperatures of summertime bring the horses close together in huddles, all swishing their tails to find relief from... swarming flies."

Through the prism of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Kalas’s photographic prowess takes readers on a riveting glimpse into the innermost lives of horses. The portfolio compilation not only exudes a genuine love for these majestic animals but, in many ways, humanizes them by capturing their most tender moments—be it newborns in the caress of protective parents or horses collectively grazing on the plains. It would not be far-fetched to describe the author as a horse whisperer. Her love of horses began at three. She has been riding since she got her first pony at six, and her combined passion for horses and photography has manifested itself into her wilderness forays.

At her core, Kalas is a student of this species. Through her work, her desire to both constantly learn and create awareness for their welfare is apparent. While the photographs are nothing short of captivating, the author’s gentle nudges with short paragraphs between sections are illuminating and provide guidance on deciphering horse mannerisms and interactions throughout the seasons. From a technical skill level, Kalas’s images, particularly of horses embedded into the foreground of snow flurries, is mesmerizing. Her ability to immerse herself into the wild and within close proximity is remarkable, giving audiences the rare opportunity to see horses fully engaged in their element—from frolicking on their backs to engaging in play in what looks like the aftermath of a roundhouse punch.

This compilation shows the flair and personality that horses possess. Each section is broken down by season, and each season has its own theme. The fall’s peaceful luminescence, especially, yields truly iconic landscapes that would be ideal on almost any calendar. Ultimately, Kalas’s work is a must-have panoramic rendition of life in the wild that places her audience front and center for a larger-than-life experience.

A 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award Art Category Honorable Mention

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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