He is considered to be the world"s premier photographer of horses. Inspired by bulls and bullfighting in Mexico, Vavra moved to Spain in 1958 with a one-way ticket to Madrid on an old Italian ship The Valcania. With no formal training in animals, he spent six years studying the beasts.
“I couldn’t obtain the sort of photographs I wanted for the study, so I became a photographer out of necessity,” Vavra was quoted as saying.
“I’ve never been interested in the camera. I don’t really consider myself a photographer.
I’m an artist and a storyteller.” He became immersed in the lore and life of this beast which culminated in the publishing of his book, Bulls of Iberia, in 1972. In 1988, Vavra established a camp in Ololasurai, Kenya and began what would become a six-year stay with the tribal Maasai people, which led to the publication of A Tent With a View in 1991.
He has paid for the education of several Maasai children and financed the building of a school in Mexico, where, since its construction, more than 5000 boys and girls have learned to read and write.
Novelist James Michener once wrote of Vavra: "Though equus has fired the imaginations of painters from Leonardo da Vinci, Velasquez, and Goya to Picasso. Still, in the history of photography, no cameraman has recorded the horse with such excitement and personal style as has Robert Vavra. His images are works of art which are a joy to see because they evoke the inner nature of the horse." His latest book "Remembering Africa" is a veritable compendium of the manitoba
Not just any writer and photographer, but a man unafraid to write of and photograph Truths (with a capital T) as seen in Men"s eyes, Women"s, and the exotic wild animals of Seville and the African plains.
If you can view the rare Kelli Martin footage of Vavra "Whispering" to Wild Cape Buffalo, elephants, rhino, and the like, you will have shared a spiritual moment with a dauntless figure of literary and photographic history. His film work includes Lawrence of Arabia and Patton and he was a creative advisor to Robert Redford during the filming of The Horse Whisperer.
Jane Goodall and William Shatner have introduced his documentary film on primitive equine behavior, Such Is The Real Nature of Horses, the culmination of 20 years of research. One of his best known horse-related projects is Horses Of The Wind, a music Civil Defense which includes Robert Vavra"s photographs.
Though mostly music, the Civil Defense includes horses" "voices", a variety of whinnies and other equine vocalizations.