At the grave of a fallen soldier stands a pale white horse, regal and majestic, with his mane in tight braids. In Anima, the photographer Charlotte Dumas delves into the quiet moments in the lives of burial horses, known for participating in the funeral ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. The magnificent equine creatures— who by day serve as living manifestations of moral ideals, patriotism, and righteousness— are caught by Dumas’s lens in nighttime moments of introspection and rest.
After the flags are folded, after the firearms have rang out, the horses remain in their small box stalls, resting on humble beds of shavings and hay. Shot under Dumas’s gleaming twilight lighting, the animals are pictured in the final minutes before sleep. In stark contrast with the colorful visions of their burial services, they are bathed in a moody Rembrandt-esque glow that streams in from metal bars, seemingly retreating into an unknowable equine psychology.
Yet within these peaceful moments, Dumas captures an anxious sense of unrest. A horse’s glinting black eye remains open as he twists his neck, revealing waves of muscle under short-clipped fur; a long nose, its hair worn away by a bridle’s noseband, pokes out into the light, emerging from sleepy darkness. The neck and back of the creature is fixed in the frame, isolated from the rest of the body, as he goes to stand upright, his withers stained with manure.
The horses range in age: some wear the grey fur of youth, while others are pure flea-bitten white. Seen here, it is as though the horses cannot escape the atmosphere of the cemetery, confined within their dark stalls forever by some invisible knowledge of death. Take a look.