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Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her 96th birthday by honouring her late husband, Prince Philip, and her lifelong love of horses.

The Royal Windsor Horse Show released a new birthday portrait of the monarch, captured by renowned landscape photographer Henry Dallal, who has previously photographed the queen and her horses.

The portrait shows Her Majesty standing in between two of her fell ponies, Bybeck Katie and Bybeck Nightingale, on the grounds of Windsor Castle. She holds the reins of her ponies while dressed in a deep moss green coat. 

Royal Photographer Henry Dallal Celebrates Queen’s 90th Birthday With Commemorative Book


By Paola Totaro

Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday celebrations last May were a lavish weeklong affair. One glamorous highlight was the Royal Windsor Horse Show held at Windsor Castle, involving more than 900 horses and 1,500 participants from all over the world. Soon, a specially commissioned book of the show is to be released with illustrations by the Iranian-born photographer Henry Dallal, a royal photographer who is also internationally recognized for his beautiful portrayals of horses.

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Dallal lives and works out of an eclectic city-pad-cum-studio in London’s exclusive Mayfair. He is surrounded by paintings, mementoes and walls of magnificent images of galloping horses: from stallions seemingly flying over the stark open spaces of the Turkmen Steppes to the thoroughbreds engaged in the pomp and tradition of the Queen’s Household Cavalry in the streets of central London. Richly coloured Persian carpets cover every inch of the floor. Beautiful, large photographic books are piled high on tables. Everywhere are signs of travel, adventure and a life lived well.

Dallal has recently returned from a trip ‘home’ – back to Iran for the first time in close to four decades. It still feels slightly unreal. Bright-eyed and vivacious, he shares his feelings for the homeland in a wide-ranging conversation with Kayhan London.

“It was magical, very emotional for me,” he says of being back. “In that moment, I remembered my dad and the effort that my parents put into bringing us up.”

“It was such a fantastic childhood, and there, in that spot, is what it was all about. It was there that I felt it. I really felt it.”

Born in Iran in 1955, Dallal, like so many of his compatriots, fled after the fall of the Shah in 1979, moving first to London, then to the United States and then back to the U.K. in 1994. One of his last memories of his beloved homeland was a trip in 1979 to the wilds of northeastern Iran, where he paid a visit to an old friend: the late Louise Firouz, an American-born horse breeder and researcher who married a member of the Iranian aristocracy, fell madly in love with the culture, and ‘re-discovered’ the ancient and rare breed now known as the Caspian horse, spending a lifetime preserving the breed and advocating for its protection.

“I dragged my mother to visit Louise and to spend some time in the place where she lived, near the Turkmen tribes on the Turkmen steppes. It was wonderful. We were riding in wild grasses up to the withers of the horse, those wide open spaces, and it was beautiful, just beautiful.”

“Those were my last few days in Iran, and two days later I was on a plane. It was June 16, 1979. Every year, I mark the anniversary. They say you can take a person out of a country but you can’t take the country out of the person, and it was always my dream, somehow, to go back.”

A letter arrived out of the blue about a year ago from one of Louise’s daughters, Ateshe. This was followed a few months later by an email from one of her grand-daughters, Touran, who said she was coming to London the following week.

The plane bringing Touran to London landed early and punctually. Touran walked in and said, ‘We know you’d like to come to the Caspian Horse conference in Iran. We would like you to be patron of the conference.”

Dallal was completely speechless. “I thought, this is amazing: My last experience of Iran was with Louise Firouz. That was my goodbye to Iran, and now, to return to Iran for the first time in her memory, through her daughters and grand-daughter . . . it seemed too good to be true. If I needed an excuse to return, this must surely be it.”

And so it was that within weeks, Dallal found himself negotiating birth certificates, passports, visas. For once, he laughed, bureaucracy was on his side, and he managed to secure all the paperwork needed within just a few days.

An added honour was a letter addressed to the conference from Prince Phillip, who has long been a keen horseman and a supporter of Louise Firouz’s campaign to safeguard the Caspian horse.

“For the first time in 36 years, I was home, on Iranian soil . . . can you imagine how that felt? All those years, I thought I was going to get off the plane and kiss the ground, but then I get there and of course it is all changed: all tunnels, air bridges, and no ground to kiss when you get off!”

Returning to Iran brought with it a rush of mixed emotions. After delivering an emotional speech – and a beautiful video tribute to Louise Firouz and her life’s work – at the Caspian horse conference, Dallal hired a driver and went off to look for evidence of his family’s old headquarters.

His search began with a villa on the Caspian Sea where he spent many “wondrous summers growing up.” When he actually found it, he realized that while it looked abandoned at first, someone had been watering the garden, and there were signs of care.

“I pushed open a window and went in, and there they were, the very same light fixtures chosen so carefully by my mother still in the kitchen and throughout the house, and the curtains in the bedroom – although faded,” he says, shaking his head.

“We had a shower room and I remember it had a window and my mother bought something to put on the glass so people couldn’t see in. There it was, still there 40 years later. It was amazing.”

Dallal was amazed at the pace of development, the high-rises, the highways that now connect Tehran with the places in the north he remembered from childhood, including one of his family’s old homes.

In the days that followed, he continued to dig deeper into his past.

“I went to look for our school, the Community School. It took me three hours, but I found it. None of the roads are the same, Tehran has exploded in size, and yet it is exactly the same school and the same building – although now it is a school for boys only. I took pictures and sent them to my Community School classmates. They have gone viral!”

A visit to his father’s old office near Tehran’s bazaar – “they have a metro all the way there, we never had that!” – was the most moving moment of all.

“It was when I came out from there that I broke down, because I remembered my dad’s enthusiasm for his business: that is where he worked and I also went to work there after university. But it was thanks to his and my mother’s efforts and sacrifices that my sisters and I had such a fantastic childhood.”

Dallal’s life as a photographer began at an early age. After the ’78-’79 Revolution, his career saw him working in real-estate investment and finance in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. He has spent the last three decades, however, immersed in the dual passions of horses and photography. Both were ignited in childhood by his parents: at the age of nine when his father gave him his first box brownie camera during a trip into the mountains of Iran, and when his mother gave him riding lessons.

During his earliest years in London, he remembers clearly hearing the sound of hooves on cobblestones outside his London flat. It was the Queen’s horses, the Household Cavalry, and he sees this is as the moment that sparked his passion to document the lives of those who live and work with horses.

It took another sixteen years for his first project to emerge. He was invited to ride with some of the Cavalry on the invitation of a friend, documenting everything – from the exercises in Hyde Park to the big moment they work towards all year: Trooping the Colour. His first book in the series, titled “Pageantry and Performance,” was published in 2003.

Since then, Dallal has published several award-winning coffee table books and has photographed British, Canadian, Indian and Middle Eastern pageantry. He has had the honour of photographing Her Majesty the Queen, European royals, sultans and emirs and their horses.

Dallal’s defiantly non-digital, untouched photography has been exhibited at Blenheim Palace, Kensington Palace, the Naples Museum of Art (US), the Royal Geographical Society, Smithsonian Institution, Balmoral Castle and Windsor Castle.

More recently, he worked in Paris at the Climate Change conference after his collaboration on another book, “Addressing Climate Change,” which contains a foreword from Ban Ki-moon, the outgoing secretary general of the United Nations.

Dallal says his return to Iran crystallized in his mind the urgent need for his compatriots to understand how precious and important it is to preserve the Caspian horse as a cultural treasure.

“The first thing I said, in Persian, was: ‘What is it about the horse that draws everyone together, from royalty to farmers to sportsmen to warriors? What is it that knows neither national boundaries nor culture?’”

“I wanted to leave a message for the audience that among Iran’s many treasures, this country also has something like seven or eight indigenous horse breeds. These horses have been roaming forever, and you cannot separate a particular breed of horse from the culture of those who look after it.”

“These too are Iranian treasures, and we must be proud and value, celebrate and preserve them for future generations.”

Henry Dallal “The Nobility of Equine Pageantry” Dartmouth House London, November 14, 2018

Henry Dallal is presenting his show “The Nobility of Equine Pageantry”  to the English Speaking Union at Dartmouth House London on November  14, 2018 at 18:30 pm

Mr Dallal journeys to remote areas frequently to portray the splendour of rarely seen landscapes and capture the beauty of unity between man and horse. His diverse subjects range from nomadic tribes of the Turkmen Steppes to the Household Cavalry in Knightsbridge. His work has been exhibited and featured in publications internationally.

His commissions include photographing Her Majesty The Queen and several other ruling families of the world.

Mr. Dallal will be focusing on the Household Cavalry and related subjects taken over an 18 year period. He will be presenting a selection of his work from his travels and his other books prior to the show including retracing the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia and speaking at the UNFCCC Climate Change conference in Lima, New York and Paris during COP21 for the Paris agreement.

Wine and canapés 6.30pm Talk at 7pm

Tickets £30 per member £35 per guest

Please contact Jane Reid for further information:

The English Speaking Union London Region Dartmouth House


Henry Dallal on how he got to meet the queen, and photograph her

South China Morning Post

29 June 2017

Iranian photographer Henry Dallal on how to make the queen smile for a photo, his lifelong passion for horses and keeping your cool when being charged by armed cavalry

29 JUN 2017

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I was born in Iran in 1955, and my love of horses and photography is due to my parents. My mother took me horse riding at the age of nine, and my father gave me a box Brownie then, too. It’s a wonderful old film camera, very basic. My father was always taking pictures, so I thought it was a normal thing to do.

After studying marketing at univer­sity in Colorado, in the United States, I returned to Iran to join my father’s import and export business. But then the 1979 revolution happened, so we ran away to England, where I sold my first photo in 1980. After two years, I moved back to Colorado. I returned to London in 1994 and have not left since.

One day, I got lucky: I saw the Household Cavalry (the queen’s official bodyguard) in Knightsbridge, and I was invited to ride one of the horses – every morning they invite a few civilians to ride. After that, I started taking pictures of the cavalry all the time until I became invisible to them. I had no idea I would end up making a book about them. It was fascinating for me to see the colours, the horses, the uniforms.

In 1999, I was invited to exhibit my work at Kensington Palace. I was involved in the property investment business and it suddenly occurred to me, why wait to retire to go and photograph a remote tribe somewhere? The tribe I’m looking for is right here, next door to me in London.

“The art of portrait photography is to be able to take a single picture that tells the story of the life of that person. You have to forget about how famous or powerful a person is. You become just two people talking, and you take a picture”

For my 2003 book, Pageantry & Performance, I wanted to record everything the Household Cavalry does. I spent six years embedded with them. The public never sees how hard they work behind the scenes, they only see a parade once a year. There’s a history, a tradition that goes back 350 years.

The commander of the cavalry – the boss – is Her Majesty the Queen. It’s very symbolic. But her personal passion is horse racing. She owns racehorses and she rides her horses all the time, still. She knew that I like horses, too, so I was invited to meet her in 2001, and to do her portrait for her golden jubilee (in 2002).

I’ve been very honoured since: my latest portrait of her is the official portrait for her 90th birthday in 2016. I found a sea of daisies for the foreground, and we had Her Majesty with her horses. You need to get the horses ears right, so I had some­body behind me doing jumping jacks, making fun of me. The queen laughed because she found that funny, but it was really to make their ears stand up.

Desert Pageantry: The Royal Cavalry of Oman was all shot on film. That book took me about eight years. I printed it in 2013.

They have 1,200 horses. It took me a long time to get the Galloping Greys picture, which I shot in Seeb, Oman, in 2011. I’m still not happy with it. I had this vision of horses galloping wild, but to create it was difficult. It’s only at the moment of release that you get this explosion of action but it had to be safe for the horses.

I went to the top general, and he said, “No, you’re not allowed to do that. It’s impossible.” So I went to the sergeant in charge of the stables. He said, “Sure, no problem.” We took 20 horses about 4km out, and we did it. The problem was that the light was not right. So the next morning, I go again – and this time the general comes to watch. We take 30 horses 5km out. They release the horses, and I’m there, waiting for them to run this way, but they don’t. They wait, and then they start running the other way – to town. I’ve got the general there with me, and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, these 30 royal, purebred Arab horses are going to run wild into town. They are all going to die.” Fortunately the tide was up so they couldn’t go much further.

That wasn’t my most challenging shoot. In 2006, I was asked to do some official portraits of the queen and Princess Anne and some top generals for the museum of the Household Cavalry. Put me in front of 100 horses gallop­ing towards me – no problem. But this was inside, I had to use lighting, it was staged and each subject had to have a painting behind them. I wondered, “How do I make it interesting?” I had to go into Buckingham Palace, find a room, choose the right painting – for the queen it was her great, great grand­father, King George III – and bring the right lighting. You have to think about these things, you have to plan.

To me, the art of portrait photography is to be able to take a single picture that tells the story of the life of that person. You have to forget about how famous or powerful a person is. You become just two people talking, and you take a picture.

In 2007, I was invited to photograph and create a book on the 61st Cavalry in Rajasthan, India. The Indian cavalry have a charge, and they bring out their swords, and they gallop like they used to do in days of old. I thought it’d be nice to capture that. That was pretty stupid, actually. A horse, as long as you don’t move, will not run right into you, it will go around you. I realised, though, that one of the horses could push another one to the side a little bit, and I’d be a target – a simple miscalculation. I did one try, and that was it.

I don’t want to be a slave to the camera; I want the camera to be a slave to me. I like to have experiences, and then take pictures of those experiences. I try to take the mini­mal amount of equipment possible. Most of my cameras have to tolerate riding on the back of a horse, being thrown on the floor of a jeep, going over rough roads or being in the sand.

Not every picture’s perfect; sometimes I make a mistake, but sometimes the mistake looks perfect, because it’s creative. You have to know your subject, to anticipate what’s going to happen. Each discipline has its perfect moment, the height of the action. But there’s one more element, and that’s luck. Every time I’ve received a “no”, seemingly reached a dead end, somehow I’ve ended up in a better position, in a better location, at a better moment.

Henry Dallal was in town to give a talk titled “The Nobility of Equine Pageantry”, organised by the Royal Geographical Society at the Hong Kong Club, 1 Jackson Road, Central.

“The Nobility of Equine Pageantry”

Location: 1/F, The Hong Kong Club, 1 Jackson Road, Central
Date: Tuesday, 16 May 2017
Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Lecture 7.30 pm

The Royal Geographical Society is delighted to welcome Henry Dallal to speak on “The Nobility of Equine Pageantry”. In this lecture, celebrated Royal and horse photographer Henry Dallal shows some of his most famous photographs and tells of the photographs he has taken of Royalty, world leaders and cavalry regiments worldwide. This includes a multimedia show. The talk ranges from the House of Windsor, to the 1,300 strong Royal Cavalry of Oman to the Horse Warriors of Rajasthan.

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Mr Dallal talks of his 17 years of photographing equine pageantry in Britain and some 20 other countries. This includes when the regiments of 25 countries came to Windsor Great Park for the HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and his travels to photograph horses around the world. He also speaks of horse racing, including Royal Ascot, and of retracing the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia on horseback. He also recounts his appearances to speak at the UNFCCC Climate Change conference in Lima, and also in New York during the UN General Assembly Meeting for Climate Week.

London-based Royal photographer Henry Dallal hails from Iran and moved to the United Kingdom following the fall of the Shah. He is photographer to numerous Royal Families worldwide and one of the world’s most famous equestrian photographers. He is most famous for his work for the Royal Families of Britain, Dubai and Bahrain, plus of the Cavalry Regiments of the United Kingdom, the UAE, Bahrain, Pakistan and India, but has photographed the horses & mounted regiments of more than 20 counties.

Mr Dallal has published a number of coffee-table books including “Desert Pageantry, The Royal Cavalry of Oman”, “Pageantry and Performance, The Household Cavalry in a Celebration of Pictures”, “Horse Warriors, India’s 61st Cavalry”; “Addressing Climate Change; The World Met In Paris”, “The World Came to Windsor: The Diamond Jubilee Pageant” and “The Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration, Windsor Castle”. He has also contributed to numerous other books including “Qatar: Sand, Sea and Sky”, “Endurance, Magic of Monaco”, “Horse Gunners: The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery” and “Horses”.

Mr Dallal journeys to remote areas frequently to portray the splendour of rarely seen landscapes and to capture the beauty of unity between man and horse. His diverse subjects range from the nomadic tribes of the Turkman Steppes to the Household Cavalry in Knightsbridge. His work has been exhibited worldwide and featured in publications internationally. He has been honoured with numerous commissions to photograph Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and other senior world figures. He is a keen rider, mountaineer, traveller, adventurer and climate change activist.

Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$150 for RGS Members and HK$200 for guests and others.