Lena Saugen Photographer

Lena in conversation with Sabine Henry

Lena Saugen is photographer based in Baerums Verk, Norway. Her interest in photography started when she was a studying at Glasgow University while working for Student Magazine where she covered music festivals. Since then she has attended many photography workshops with the aim of broadening her work with well-known photographers, such as Morten Krogvold, Claire Rosen, Jeff Cowen and Jim Casper. Her lifetime relationship and passion for horses combined with her photography naturally led her into equine photography. She has been collaborating with Lusitano Horse Finder (LHF) for four years, capturing and portraying some of the most exquisite specimens of Lusitano horses that Portugal has to offer.

Recently, Lena had the opportunity to photograph horses from Coudelaria Vila Viçosa in the beautiful gardens and old stable block at the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa. I conducted an interview with Lena about her experiences of Portugal, the people and last but not least, the horses.

How did you come about to work in Portugal? Have you always had a connection with Portugal, even prior to working with Lusitano Horse Finder?

“Teresa had spotted a few of my pictures in 2013 that I had posted on Facebook of a horse that she had sold to Norway. She arranged for the editor of Equilife magazine, Theresa and I to come to Portugal for a press weekend for Lusitano Weddings & Events.

We had the most fantastic trip, visiting several places, meeting really nice people and horses. I really fell in love with the equine culture and tradition, and from then on I had established a great relationship with Lusitano Horse Finder (LHF). The strange thing is, I’ve always had a very strong connect to Portugal prior to working with LHF. During the late 80s I was on the inter-rail, visiting Lisboa and Ericeira, I particularly remember Praia Foz do Lizandro! So when Teresa took me for my first lunch at Praia Foz do Lizandro, I got a real déjà vu feeling. I loved it then, and I definitely love it now- I keep coming back on vacation!”

You´ve been working with Lusitanos for a while now. Are there any special characteristics of the breed that really stand out to you? (Feel free to add any other remarks about the breed)!

“Why I love Lusitanos? First of all they are such strong characters; I’ve seen many types over the years since I started working with them, plus, they are so fascinating. Their strong expression, the conformation, sensibility, sensitivity, strong mind-set, ability and eagerness to work, the sheer strength and of course their colours and beauty all add to the uniqueness of the breed! Their trust in their rider/handler is so pure and raw, it’s truly amazing! They are incredibly agile, brave and intelligent- I’ve seen many examples of brave horses during my photo-shoots here: climbing up/down stairs, walking on narrow, wooden bridges over a moat, jumping a 1.60 concrete wall (not intentional!), going inside a house…they never cease to amaze me!
Graceful Agility, Polished Precision, Exquisite Elegance, Spirited and Intelligent temperaments. These descriptive words fit both.

There is a very intricate relationship between the Portuguese people and the Lusitanos, something quite special. How do you manage to incorporate this in your work?

“ Well, first of all, I try to be very humble and respectful when people present their horses. People make a tremendous effort to present the horse in the best way and a lot of people are very busy, so I am particularly grateful for their time. People are very proud of their horses and the Lusitanos are very connected to the Portuguese culture. There is so much history and very strong traditions surrounding the breed. They are after all one of the oldest breeds in the world! The Iberians were originally used as warhorses and later on as working horses for hunting and bullfighting. I do try to incorporate the different aspects of the Lusitano in my work, as they are very versatile in their disciplines! So my work is a mixture of the more traditional aspects and the modern sport Lusitanos. The setting is also a big key factor. I manage to incorporate the environment in the picture as a part of my story.”

We have to talk about Casanova! You seem to have a very strong connection to him that is very evident in your work. I´ve even seen him bring tears to your eyes. What is it about him that really speaks to you? Tell me about him in your own words.

“ Casanova… He’s my man! I have photographed him several times now and I am so fortunate to have that opportunity, all thanks to Teresa and Coudelaria Vila Viçosa. He is such a character, I can’t really explain it…it’s just a strong feeling of connection that I have with him. First of all, he’s very expressive in liberty, so not difficult to fall in love with him for that reason. Plus he has a strong presence. He is incredibly wise and very trustful. And his look in the camera! His presence and character penetrates the lens. He is kind of a spiritual horse for me.

What are your hopes/aspirations for your work in Portugal and what messages do you want to convey in your work for the future?

I hope to continue collaborating with LHF. Teresa and Nuno have become very dear friends of mine. I really think of Portugal as my second home and I will always find my way back to this beautiful country and its great people. I hope my work can show the rest of the world what a unique and fantastic breed the Lusitano is.

Interview by Sabine Henry, header photo of Lena and Casanova by Sabine Henry working at Lusitano Horse Finder