It’s not often that Dan’s Papers goes a year without running the annual Hampton Classic poster on its cover, and that’s because it’s equally, if not more, unheard of for the Hampton Classic to skip a year entirely. Unfortunately for fans of the horse show, 2020 was the year that canceled nearly everything, but not before the winning 2020 Hampton Classic poster design was chosen. Equine photographer Shelli Breidenbach’s stunning design, the first photograph selected for a Hampton Classic poster since 2007, will now serve as the 2021 poster, and thus, our accompanying Dan’s Papers cover.
Breidenbach has produced elegant and chic equine photos in a studio format for nearly 20 years. With a career history on Wall Street and in fashion photography, she found the most satisfaction photographing the horses she loved and rode in her free time before her equine photography evolved into something more. She began painting solid-color, 20-foot square backdrops for her horse subjects to keep the viewer’s eyes from getting distracted by visual background noise, and she’s developed her process over the last decade to what she now calls “equestrian minimalist photography,” which emphasizes the beautiful unobstructed shape and abstract nature of the horse subject.
What is the name of this year’s Hampton Classic poster, and what inspired this image?
I don’t know that it actually has a name—it is just the Hampton Classic poster 2021. The horse’s name, however, is Touchdown.
How was this impressive shot set up, captured and edited?
At the time that this photo was taken, this incredible horse was owned by a friend and fellow rider at the barn I was also riding at. I had planned a photoshoot with several other horses, but had always been enamored with this particular horse. Not only has he had a very successful show jumping career, but he is an extraordinary mover—I could sit and watch him for hours. We included Touchdown in our photoshoot that day at my request, and he was an absolute dream to work with. Sometimes you never really know what a horse is willing to show you in front of the camera or on a set of this magnitude—but he was very relaxed, willing, and the results were everything and more than I could have hoped for.
What has been the most surprising or exciting aspect of having your art featured on a Hampton Classic poster?
The Hampton Classic has always been my favorite horse show. As a former South Fork resident and Hampton Classic competitor, I looked forward to this week every year, knowing that the competition would be some of the best in the country, held in an exquisite environment that was extremely well organized, well run, and most importantly, truly honored the horse and the tradition of horsemanship. As the first photographer to be chosen to represent the Hampton Classic poster since the brilliant Steven Klein in 2007, I was both stunned and honored to have been given this opportunity. I am very excited to be here as the 45th Hampton Classic gets underway!
In addition to horses, what else inspires you creatively?
I truly love to travel, and often find inspiration from other surroundings and environments. A trip to South Africa almost 20 years ago inspired me to be a photographer, and I continue to welcome new ideas from different countries, cultures, and the backgrounds from within.
Not counting this gorgeous poster, what artistic accomplishment or achievement are you most proud of?
I loved the opportunity to create an equestrian-themed performance fabric line that has paired so beautifully with my photography. It has always been important to me to have a home that I could share with kids, dogs, horses and a menagerie of animals. One of the many things that I think COVID has taught us is that in addition to the health, love and support of our families, our home and how we choose to spend that time within it has become significantly important. It is very important to me to be able to contribute to the comfort and the happiness of families within their homes.
What are you most looking forward to at the 2021 Hampton Classic?
Being a spectator in one of the greatest horse shows in the world—as well as knowing that the very high standards and the traditions of this show will never change. Helping to represent those principles from an artist’s perspective is a very proud moment.
Where can your work be seen in the coming weeks, both online and up close?
Clic Galleries in the city and East Hampton.
To see Shelli Breidenbach’s photography online, visit shellibreidenbach.com.