The result of more than eight years of intense work in Italy and elsewhere, Theatrum Equorum is acclaimed photographer Andrea Modica’s latest monograph with TIS books.
As the title indicates, Modica’s interest lies in the drama of the horse – but her approach is one that completely upends expectations for such an exploration. Using her trademark 8 in x 10 in large format camera, she made these photographs at a renowned horse clinic in Bologna that attracts remarkable and often very valuable animals for a range of medical procedures including, among other things, fracture repairs, emergency colic intervention and dental work.
“When I was invited to witness an operation, I was immediately drawn to the contrast of these magnificent animals rendered so vulnerable,” Modica says. “I instantly wanted to investigate with my camera.” She began the project by making pictures of the horses in their post-operative recovery rooms: simple padded stalls with overhead windows that produce a lovely, soft light. To protect the animals as they emerge from anesthesia, the floors are carefully covered with the surgeon’s shredded junk mail, old medical journals, and art magazines. “The stalls are at once theatrical stages and humble boxes. In my photographs the horses are in an anesthetic sleep,” the artist notes. “There’s something sacred about the animals and the process of being able to go through this with them—a state of extreme vulnerability for an animal of that power.”
What followed was an obsessive visual study of the surgical tools, both before and after procedures, as well as a photographic examination of phantoms: curious “false” mares used for reproductive purposes. This part of the project took Modica to facilities in Italy as well as the United States, including visits to clinics in Maryland, Kentucky, and Florida. As such, Theatrum Equorum connects her previous work in Italy (published in such books as l’Amici del Cuore and Reveal) with her American works January 1, As We Wait, Human Being, Fountain, Treadwell, and Minor League, among many others.
Andrea Modica is a professor at Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar, and the recipient of a Knight Award. An exhibition of the photographs contained in Theatrum Equorum runs June 15 through December 11, 2022, at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art on the Ursinus College campus in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.