Behind the Scenes with Neil Latham

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane's End Farm.

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane’s End Farm.

Zenyatta Captures Thoroughbred Essence, Says Photographer Neil Latham

For fine art photographer Neil Latham, his mum was the most powerful and soulful woman he had ever encountered, so when he noticed similar qualities among grazing horses in upstate New York while grieving his mum’s passing, he did what came naturally: he took a few photographs.

The shots captivated Latham – there was strength yet fragility, athletic supremacy with graceful movement, determination yet peaceful confidence. He sensed his mother’s presence. He was struck by a compulsion to capture the essence and mystique of the Thoroughbred on film, honoring these magnificent animals and his mother at the same time.

Yet over thousands of miles, 100-plus horses, 6,000 images, and countless equipment trials and set rotations, it wasn’t until Latham met Zenyatta that the original objective crystalized for him.

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane's End Farm.

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane’s End Farm.

The Challenge of Essence
In order to reveal the profound, transcendent element he sensed beneath the surface of these complex animals, Latham fine-tuned his artistic vision, resolved technical issues and sorted logistics. He convinced horse owners and trainers to let him photograph their multi-million-dollar racehorses, and crisscrossed the country loaded with equipment. He slept in the groom dorms at Saratoga Race Course and camped in a tent at Kentucky Horse Park. “I had to live it and wait for the special moments,” he says.

To achieve absolute perfection, Latham experimented with photographic equipment, light, exposure and large-scale sets. He built a portable studio with a black backdrop 20 feet tall and 36 feet wide that had to be rotated every 15 minutes to maintain the perfect angle to the sun. He also shot stampeding horses to capture intrinsic wildness, with the swirling dust giving a magical element.

In the process, Latham visited storied horse farms including Lane’s End, Gainesway, Stonestreet, Coolmore, Spendthrift, Ramsey, and Adena Springs. He photographed Thoroughbred legends such as A.P. Indy, Curlin, Tapit, Rachel Alexandra, Ghostzapper and American Pharoah. Black-and-white images revealed isolated musculature after a good breezing, architectural lines and curves, frenzied running, and more as he pushed the artistic limits of the subject matter. Some images nearly resemble equine versions of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs.

Behind the scenes at Zenyatta's photo shoot.

Behind the scenes at Zenyatta’s photo shoot.

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane's End Farm.

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane’s End Farm.

And Then There Was Zenyatta
Latham and his assistant were shooting in California when approval came in to photograph Zenyatta. Excited, they drove for 34 hours straight, swapping driving and sleeping, arriving at Lane’s End Farm just four hours before the start of the scheduled session.

“By that time I had shot more than 6,000 images of the best Thoroughbreds in the country, yet she was the most glorious creature I had ever seen,” says Latham. “She was nearly posing…she seemed to know her best position. She loved to be photographed and looked right at the lens. She was so alluring. I was fully aware that what I had in front of me was an iconic animal – a horse with soul. I felt a tremendous amount of joy photographing her and didn’t want to stop.”

Latham with Zenyatta

Latham with Zenyatta

When Latham asked a handler to take a photo of him with Zenyatta at the end of the session, something quite unexpected and extraordinary happened. “She tucked her head under my arm and just stayed there. A Thoroughbred would never do this. Then she tilted her head and looked straight at me. It was like she was talking to me through her eyes. I knew she understood people and felt emotion, and it seemed like she was in touch with my inner thoughts and feelings. This was a revelation…she connected with me on a different level. And I felt something I had never felt before with a horse,” he says.

As the moment ended, Latham knew it was the end of the journey, too. He had captured the essence of the Thoroughbred.

“All of my photos portrayed the power and dominance of the breed, but it wasn’t until Zenyatta that I was able to reveal the emotional, fragile side,” says Latham. “It was the missing piece. I felt the finality, and then a wave of sadness. I never wanted it to be over; it’s hard to stop an obsession. But it seemed like there was nothing else to say – it had all been said with Zenyatta.”

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane's End Farm.

Neil Latham photographs Zenyatta at Lane’s End Farm.

Zenyatta Forever
Latham’s iconic portrait of Zenyatta is currently featured in an exhibition, “Neil Latham: American Thoroughbred,” at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City through July 30. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Address: 515 W. 26th St. in Chelsea.

Limited edition prints are available in a few sizes ranging up to 50 x 60 inches for maximum impact. They are numbered, finished on archival paper with museum framing, and signed by the artist.

Zenyatta is also a highlight of the limited edition fine art coffee table book “American Thoroughbred” by Neil Latham published by Twin Palms. It features 182 pages with 80 duotones, and is casebound and slipcased for quality presentation. It retails for $95 and is available from the publisher at or from Amazon (ISBN: 978-1-936611-12-6). It can also be purchased at the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York through the end of July.

American Thoroughbred has developed quite a following on Instagram, see @neil_american_thoroughbred. The photographer’s website is


  1. Dear Judy.We are all in meltdown today.Very uncomfortable.Seville said it’s been extremely hot in Nova Scotia.All cats are cranky there.Continuing to pray for Ceri.Goodnight God bless you LM PC HT Cap Hercules Frank Bentley and all the sweeties.Love and hugs SheenaX

    1. Dear Sheena:

      We are in the “muggies” here too. Lola Mae, like the kitties, is uncomfortable in the heat too. We keep the AC “cranking”. Healing prayers for baby Ceri. Goodnight. Love and Hugs, JB, LM, PC, HT, Cap, Herc, Frank, Bentley and all the Sweeties

  2. Hope this comes through. Some nice photos of their stallions. Love Orfevre

    1. Dear Janet:

      Oh, thank you so much for this link. Kizuna is one gorgeous boy; but then I think they’re all beautiful. Have to forward the link to Peggy. Orfevre is the horse of her heart. Love and Hugs, JB

      1. Judy, Thank You so much for letting me know. Went right there to see him. Thank You again so much.. Yes he has my heart.

        1. Dear Peggy:

          You’re so welcome. Love and Hugs, JB

    2. Dear Janet,

      Thanks for the link. There are some beautiful stallions in this slide show!
      Orfevre is gorgeous, and Lord Kanaloa is a stunning bay. Oh who am I kidding — they are all magnificent!

      Hugs and Love

    3. Dear Janet, Just can’t tell you how much I Thank You. Just Love Orfevre so much. They are all just beautiful.. Made me so happy to see him.

    4. Dear Ms. Janet – Thank you for this link. These horses absolutely are breathtakingly handsome stallions. The sons of Sunday Silence…….. Gorgeous. They are all stunning. Thanks.

  3. Darling Zenyatta.Have a goodnight and stay comfy.YOU know I always love you.God bless you.X

  4. Dear Mama Z, COZ, ZI and DC:

    Goodnight. Happy Dreams to all of you. Love and Hugs, JB

    Z Princess, Dubai, Baby Z, will always love you.

  5. I must thank you Mr. Latham for capturing the soul and the beauty of our beloved Zenyatta. Beautifully descriptive words by you … how she captured your heart forever. What a gorgeous book . All of the horses ( and I’ve seen some of the other photographs perhaps from his website or another horse commentary blog) are just amazing, but to me Zenyatta is the star. For every fan who has seen her in person or who may have only seen her on television or via the internet or photos …. We are all in her loving emotional embrace. She exudes love and beauty and kindness The world is an infinitely better place because she resides peacefully in a Kentucky farm. Everyone is a better person for knowing her. May she be blessed with a long and happy life. She is very special and we all need her in our lives. And for those of us lucky enough to have watched her race and be there when the stands shook…….. Unbelievable. Thank you Lane’s End for this post today.

  6. Here is a list of Countries and Riders & Horses

    Rio Olympic showjumping teams: confirmed riders
    Carol Phillips Horse and Hound 19 July, 2016
    United States
    •Lucy Davis riding Barron
    •Kent Farrington riding Voyeur
    •Mclain Ward riding Azur
    •Elizabeth Madden riding Cortes C
    •Reserve: Laura Kraut riding Zeremonie

  7. July 20 Cherokee Devotional

    We often question why something happens to us, even though it’s clear we’ve ignored the warning signs: stay clear of certain situations, avoid certain foods or drinks, avoid associating with certain people. We simply didn’t use our common sense.
    The artist doesn’t paint sewage or trash but waits to paint something beautiful on the canvas. We are artists in our own way, deciding what we will paint on our canvas of life. When we don’t discriminate, when we daub on and dip into ugly colors, we end up painting a picture that has to be done over. Often we paint with ugly colors simply because they were there or because other people were doing it. We are too lazy to paint something beautiful, or we’re afraid our painting will be “different”-and we don’t want to be different. Yet we need always to listen to the spirit within, which knows which colors to choose, what actions to take. When we do this, we will feel peace in our hearts.

    There will never be peace between nations…until there is true peace in the souls of men.
    -Black Elk, Oglala Sioux

  8. Dear Kathy.So true unless men have peace in their hearts there is not much hope for us.I don’t know how we survived yesterday we were in meltdown!A soldier died again while training on the Brecon Beacons same happened in 2013 when 3 died on the hottest day of the year.It has cooled down but I have a terrible headache with the thundery atmosphere.
    The Dyfi have been consulting with experts about Ceri and they have come to the conclusion she injured her wing in the fall,she was too young to perch and may have been balancing on one leg as ospreys do.She looks more alert today but hasn’t eaten.So for now she is safe in the nest with her parents close by and they hope nature will heal.An American woman went on a rant on their FB last night saying they should use a net gun.While I do appreciate it is difficult to watch Ceri these things are easier said than done.Can you imagine how she would panic?T6 is a lot better but still has a limp what is happening to our babies this year??So far all is well at Lowes.I sent you a photo of Pippa’s ring she could always sell it when times are hard and friends are few!We are waiting to receib news from Wimbley and Mango has finally arrived home.They are exhausted.It looks very hot with Zoe she was glad to get out of town.I found an FB by reading the cat magazine called Iris Grace Painting she has autism and is an extraordinary painter.She has a maine coon cat called Thula who has been her saviour.Her mother has written a book.Mother Theresa held her first PMQ’s today and did very well.She is off to Germany this afternoon and Paris tomorrow(she can give President Hollande some hairstyle tips).Lovely photo of little and large on Hovis.I shared on my timeline take a look.Have a lovely day.Love and hugs to you,Kisses for Angel Holly,Nikko and Sugar.SheenaXOXO

  9. Very disappointed to hear Postponed is out of the big race on Saturday.He has a respiratory infection and Her Majesty’sDartmouth is now favourite.Get well soon Postponed.Sheena

  10. Disappointed to hear Postponed is out of Saturday’s big race with a respiratory infection.Her Majesty’s Dartmouth is now favourite.Get well soon beautiful boy.Sheena.

    1. Very sorry my message got posted twice.

  11. Dear Sheena,

    So sorry you’re suffering from the heat. What a tragedy that soldier died! Stay in the air conditioning as much as possible and be sure to drink a lot of water. Don’t dehydrate! Steve’s family were in Mazatlan on vacation years ago and he dehydrated. He was hospitalized, put on IVs. To this day it happens again if he doesn’t drink enough water. I don’t want that to happen to you! First symptom that he complains about is headache, so be careful. Poor little Ceri. I hope she’ll be okay. Prayers continue for her. I would feel so much better if she would start eating again. Glad to hear TG6 is better. Good to know all is well at Lowe’s. Thanks for sending the photo of Pippa’s ring. Always sad when you have to start selling off you jewelry! lolol Anxiously awaiting word form Wimbley. I hope the aliems brought enough doughnuts! Yes, I saw Mango is home. They truly look exhausted! I’m glad Zoe had a little relief from that awful heat! I’ll have to look for that cat. Sounds like Mother Theresa is up to the job so far. Good news! Hairstyle tips for President Hollande. lolol I will look for the pic from Hovis. Have a great Hump Day. Love and hugs from me, kisses from Angel Holly, Nikko and Sugar. Kathy XOXO

  12. Dear Kathy.No A/C with me!!Only open windows.I am drinking plenty Ceri is getting very tired without food but one lady has taken a very pragmatic approach,better she dies at the Dyfi than attempt a flight to Africa next month.We just live in hope.Hugs SheenaXOXO

    1. God bless you and God bless Ceri Sheena!

  13. Dear Sheena,

    Oh no! I guess the lady is right, but it’s heartbreaking just the same…


  14. California Chrome vs Dortmund

    Dortmund returns to racing in new role as spoiler
    Steve Andersen | Daily Racing Form Jul 18, 2016
    DEL MAR, Calif. — Dortmund has won 8 of 10 starts, six stakes, and has earned $1,712,480 so far in his career.
    “Eight of 10, not many do that,” owner Kaleem Shah said.
    Later in article
    On Saturday, Dortmund is scheduled to have his first start of 2016 in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap at 1-1/16 miles, a prep for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 20. Dortmund’s return will be overshadowed by the comeback of California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year, who has not raced since winning the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.

    1. 2016 San Diego Handicap (G2)
      Date/Track: 7/23/2016, Del Mar
      Distance: 1 1/16 m (Dirt)
      Age/Sex: 3 M

    2. Dear BGG:

      Thanks for this info on Dortmund. Love this boy, but I’m rooting for CC. Would be a very good Exacta choice. Love and Hugs, JB

      1. Judy B; I wish the best for Dortmund in another race but CC has always been my boy!

        1. Dear Sally:

          CC has a special place in my heart too. Love and Hugs, JB

    3. This is a tough one for me cause I’ve been in love with Dortmund from the get go and I adore CC.

    4. BGG,
      Thanks for the post. My heart is with Chrome but wish Dortman and all the others a nice 2nd place and/or a safe trip. Happy Dortman has Gary Stevens up. He will take care of the big guy.

      1. Dear Shirlee:

        Me too. Love and Hugs, JB

  15. Dear Sheena
    I don’t know much about this project but I have been watching the live feed the last two days and am concerned about Ceri. It looks like she has injured her left wing (it’s dragging). If she can’t fly than she won’t be able to get food or water. That is serious. Is there anyone from this program who is going to go get her to treat the wing and feed her? I noticed she has been leg band so she has been handled in the past. We have wildlife sanctuarys here that have rescued large birds like eagles, Falcons etc. I hope they don’t wait too long…. she is still alert this morning but her wing is definitely injured and I think they can treat it (even if it is broken) and they can get her food and water. She seems like a sweet bird.

    Luv the pics of sweet Zenny! She is so beautiful! Kisses on your soft nose 😘

    1. Dear Barbara.The birds are only handled when they are ringed.They don’t plan to intervene at the moment Ceri would only fly away and there are preditors about .They feel she is safer in the nest for now with mum and dad at hand to feed if she is up to eating.She injured her wing in the fall 3 days ago.She is a beautiful bird and we are heartbroken she is poorly.Sheena

  16. What a wonderful thing for him to feel that with our beautiful and soulful Zenyatta .Nice to have a professional recognize her special abilities . This article actually made me feel joyous and tearful at the same time . I miss her .. thank you for this wonderful article .

  17. Dear Z Fans:

    Found another wonderful photo of Z’s brother, DeCoronado. What a big, handsome boy he is. Love and Hugs, JB

    1. Judy B; DeCoronado looks so awesome.

    2. Thank You Judy, He looks so much like Zenyatta. Just Beautiful

    3. Dear Judy B.,

      Thanks bunches for the photo of De Coronado. He certainly has the family resemblance and has a lovely color! Good Luck to him always, and may he be safe and sound.

      Hugs and Love

      1. Dear Sally, Peggy and Marshall:

        DC’s a Hunk. Love and Hugs, JB

  18. Dear Max, Sheena, Ann, Shirlee, Sandy and Z Fans:

    Look at this gorgeous photo. Don’t know who it is; says Darley on the saddle cloth. What a beauty.; channeling The Big Beast. Love and Hugs, JB

    1. Dear Judy.What a beauty.I don’t seem to recognise him.Ceri has been 3 days without food now but has been more alert today.They just watch and wait and do have contingency plans for all eventualities.They feel she is safe in her nest the land is very boggy and they get high tides she could easily drown if she got on the ground.We can only pray.Congratulations to H for doing so well.Goodnight God bless you LM PC HT Cap Hercules Frank Bentley and all the sweeties.Love and hugs SheenaX

      1. Dear Sheena:

        So very sorry about the loss of little Ceri. RIP beautiful baby. Goodnight. Bless You. Love and Hugs, JB, LM, PC, HT, Cap, Herc, Frank, Bentley and all the Sweeties

    2. Judy B; WOW!!
      LOVE N HUGS, Sally B

    3. Wow!
      What a presence — just stunning!
      Thanks for posting this “Big Beast understudy”.

      Hugs and Love

      1. Dear Sheena, Sally and Marshall:

        He is stunning. Love and Hugs, JB

  19. Sheena,,
    Thanks for the info and the updates on Ceri. I will be praying for her 🙏

    Luv to Zenyatta and all her babies😘

  20. Dear Zenyatta my lifetime mare horse, I saw a video of you dancing today on face book.
    OH, I have seen it before and it was my favorite of you. You most certainly rocked in racing and then you have rocked as a wonderful Momma. I will never forget all the wonderful moments past and always look forward to all in the present.
    LOVE you with kisses and to all your sons,
    Z princess and my dear Sir
    Auntie Sally B

  21. Sad news from the Dyfi group tonight. Just around midnight, Ceri lost her battle and passed away.

    1. Sweet, brave Ceri. Will think of you flying high always. with love, Elizabeth

      1. Dear Sheena,
        Thinking of you and sharing your sadness tonight. with love, Elizabeth

    2. So sorry to hear this. Sheena so sorry.

    3. Very sad news. So sorry about the loss of Ceri; I was hoping she could come around and be all right. RIP young Ceri, you were just beginning.

      Thinking of you tonight, Sheena, with comforting thoughts.

      Hugs and Love

    4. Dear Z13Rulz, Sheena and Z Fans:

      I join you in sadness at the loss of Ceri. Rest In Peace beautiful, brave baby. Love and Hugs, JG

  22. Rest In Heavenly Peace to The Chili Man, and Monique Snowden his trainer. Such tragedy’s. Rest In Peace Monique.
    To Dean Reaves so sorry for the loss of this wonderful 2 year old prospect. So hard to take with a horse being put down. Hurts the heart so bad.
    Hope Monique and The Chili Man are with God now. Just Speechless for this tragedy
    Blessings and Love, Peggy

    1. Dear Peggy:

      Just read this sad news in Bloodhorse. Rest In Peace Monique and The Chili Man. May you be reunited in God’s Heaven. Love and Hugs, JB

    2. Dear Peggy,

      This is just horrible — a double tragedy. RIP The Chili Man and RIP Monique Snowden.
      Condolences to all who grieve.

      Here is a link to The Bloodhorse article.

      Hugs and Love

    3. Dear Peggy,
      Heartbreaking and sad news about Monique and The Chili Man. Wish Monique had gotten help. Even in our darkest times, God is here for us – we have to remind ourselves and each other. with love, Elizabeth

    4. So heart breaking. Every time I think of it I just cry and my heart hurts for everyone at Emerald Downs. I don’t know what else to say.

  23. Dear Z Fans:

    On a happier note. Ziconic’s daddy, Tapit, reaches the $100 million mark in earnings by his progeny. What a legacy. Great photo of Tapit too. Love and Hugs, JB

    1. Dear Judy B.,

      Thanks for the link. Tapit is so very handsome! I am sure Ziconic is proud of his papa, and we already know how he feels about his most extraordinary mama. 😊

      Hugs and Love

    2. Quite amazing, Judy! Thanks so much for posting this news. with love, Elizabeth

      1. Dear Marshall and Elizabeth:

        You’re so welcome. Amazing legacy. Love and Hugs, JB

  24. Dear Beautiful Mama Z, COZ, ZI and DC:

    Goodnight. Stay comfy and cozy. Happy Dreams. Love and Hugs, JB

    Z Princess, Dubai, Baby Z, will always love you.

  25. July 21 Cherokee Devotional

    An ordinary lizard about four or five inches long, with green and brown stripes along his shiny body, patrols the area around my window. He is diligent. He is industrious and can bend his body in many ways to get into crevices where bugs may be hiding.
    Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as the saying goes. The lizard’s will is his stomach. He can’t afford to wait for legislation to give him food. His whole existence depends on making it happen by his own will and determination.
    This lizard acts like a hunter, thinks like a hunter, and works to prove he is one. He looks for bugs more intently than most of us look for solutions for our problems. Both bugs and solutions float around us all the time, but we are wise to leave the bugs to the lizard and instead to focus on catching the solution to our problems.

    We live close to our great mother, the earth.
    -Sagoyehwatha, Seneca

  26. Wise Dan to receive ‘Comeback’ award – Rood and Riddle. He looks wonderful!

    1. Congratulations to “the Most Interesting Horse in the World”, Wise Dan!
      You certainly deserve this Comeback award, big fella.

      How exciting it will be for everyone present at the Kentucky Horse Park on July 30th to be able to see the magnificent WD in person!!

      Hugs and Love

    2. Dear Elixabeth.Great news about WD.I miss him on the racecourse.He looks to having a fabulous time.Hugs Sheena

    3. Dear Elizabeth:

      Thank you so much for this link. WD is looking wonderful, indeed. Love this special boy. Love and Hugs, JB

  27. Dear Zenny,
    Am loving looking at the amazing photographs in ‘your’ new book (well I know it’s Neil Latham’s – but you are always our ‘star’!). Especially loved Kris S’s photos also. Hope today is a wonderful day for you! with love, Elizabeth

  28. I have just donated to the DOP in Ceri’s name.She may only have been with us a short while but we are the better for having known her Her body remains in the nest for the time being.She had seemed more alert yesterday bu tseemed very tired when I looked in last night and her head was moving from side to side so I asked the Lord to take her home and early this morning I found he had answered my prayers.Rydych wedi do o hyd i’ch gorffwys.Nawr heddfan rhad ac am ddim cariad fach.Sheena

    1. Dear Sheena,

      Awww…I’m so sorry to read this. RIP, Ceri. Hugs to you, Sheena. XOXO

  29. Dear Kathy.Great devotional.Such sad news this morning.I had checked on Ceri before going to bed about 11pm and she was shaking her head.I just touched the screen and prayed.I think they knew there wasn’t much hope of her recovering that’s why they wanted her to be safe in the nest.She twisted her head and lifted her tail and just stopped breathing.Maybe there were internal injuries.Looking back it was a nasty fall.I am glad she is at peace now.
    Life goes on.There was a feature about Felix the station cat in your cat magazine today a passenger started her FB she is so busy chasing Percy Pigeon she has no time to post herself and she has 70,000 friends now!The Americans love sending her treats and the bags are so huge.They give a lot to Yorkshire cat rescue.Wimbley is having a great time with the little green men!And they have tasty snacks too.They brought out the red carpet for mother Theresa yesterday in Germany plus a guard of honour .Bojo is visiting the US today so please be kind to him!Pippa has a very expensive watch on nearly £15,000.George is 3 tomorrow we are sure to get photos.Have a great day.Love and hugs to you,Kisses for Angel Holly,Nikko and Sugar.SheenaXOXO

  30. Dear Sheena,

    Poor Ceri had a lot of people rooting for her on both sides of the pond. A recovery was just not meant to be. As you say, she is at peace now. At least she is not suffering. Felix and Percy, how fun! 70,000 friends…remarkable! How nice of them to give some of those treats to Yorkshire cat rescue! Wimbley and the aliems are holding hands and singing song, too! Yes, I saw that red carpet for Mother Theresa! Welcome, Bojo! Apparently Pippa really likes expensive jewelry! Doesn’t seem possible George is turning three! My, how quickly time passes! I look forward to pics! Have a great Friday Eve. Love and hugs from me, kisses from Angel Holly, Nikko and Sugar. Kathy XOXO