The Serene Beauty of Horses in the Womb

Photographer Tim Flach sees similarities between baby equines and humans

This 10-day-old thoroughbred embryo was in transit between mares at the Equine Fertility Unit in Newmarket, United Kingdom. Flach had a matter of minutes to spend with a petri dish in order to capture this image. Tim Flach
When scientists decoded the genome of the domesticated horse, they found that a horse’s chromosomes are arranged in similar ways to our own. Here, at day 30, the pearlescent organism could easily pass for any mammal—even human. Tim Flach
By day 65, the embryo has grown to two and three-quarters of an inch and has developed definitively equine features. Tim Flach
“I was very lucky to find something that has a gesture about it,” Flach says of the porcelain doll-like fetus, aged 85 days, lying in peaceful repose. “It was about picking an angle and lighting the shot.”

“Early humans went into caves and rendered pictures of horses,” says Tim Flach. “It’s an animal that is partnered with us.” Flach, a 55-year-old photographer in London, explores that relationship without including human beings in the pictures. Instead, he has suggested the interspecies bond through stylized portraits of horses wearing medieval armor or racing colors.

Flach’s most intimate treatment of the subject—his documentation of the gestation of a horse—even reveals a biological resemblance. In its earliest, undifferentiated days, the milky white form might appear to be that of either human or equine. But by day 85 the graceful, 5.5-inch-long figure—suspended in formalin and photographed through a glass container—is undeniably a horse. “I hope it inspires a sense of awe,” Flach says. “You’re seeing something in its design stages.”

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