Portfolio: Emil Hartvig

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

There are many fun ways to choose which horse to put your money on at this week's Royal Ascot: you could study the form and weather conditions; you could close your eyes and use a pin to pick a pony; or you could – and this is one for the real aficionados out there – choose according to which jockey's silks you like best.

The colours jockeys wear identify the owner or trainer of their horse – a tradition that can be traced back to medieval jousts – but for the Danish photographer Emil Hartvig, whose formal training is in graphic design, their significance is firmly punter-oriented: "They're like riding logotypes," says the 33-year-old. "You have to be able to see them from a distance and be able to tell which is your rider. It is the same thing we do [as graphic designers] with visual identity – creating something that is distinguishable from other visual expressions."

Hartvig shot his "Jockeys" series at the Klampenborg racecourse in his native Copenhagen over three months in the summer of 2009 after being struck one day by the similarity of the riders from afar. "Their stature is really strange," he explains. "A lot of them seem to weigh 10 kilos under the normal weight for their height, and I thought it could be interesting to put them all in the same position, making them look exactly the same, the only change being the graphic system of their uniform."

It is a conceit made all the more evident by the fact that Hartvig shot some jockeys twice, in different silks, after they returned to Klampenborg during the season to race for other owners. Not that the riders made it easy for Hartvig to make that point: "None of them wanted to spend any time being photographed, so I had to wait between the area where they have their breaks, between the course and the track, and just say, 'OK, can I have a photo?' ask them to stand still, and click three or four times before they were off."

For more from the series: emilhartvig.dk. Royal Ascot begins on Tuesday and continues until Saturday ( ascot.co.uk)