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  • Writer's pictureMark Heathcote

Chasing Jesse Marlow's White Horse

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

I love this Jesse Marlow image from Melbourne. As part of my continual efforts to get inside the heads of some great photographers and with a trip to Melbourne scheduled, it was time to get researching.

So, I knew Jesse almost certainly took this photograph in Melbourne, and some research / online interviews with Jesse confirmed this. But how would I find the location that this image was taken in order to get inside his head and see what he saw?

I need to be near a tram stop

Arriving in Melbourne and pounding the streets I showed the image (on my phone) to some taxi drivers to see if they recognised the white horse. No-one did, but they did point out that the big yellow block is a tram barrier which is found at tram stops across Melbourne. OK, so I know I need to be near a tram stop.

Some more googling while chilling in a cool Melbourne café using 'white horse Melbourne' came up with a lead. There is a road called White Horse Road in a district called Box Hill. I found a story about a statue of a white horse that was the only survivor of the White Horse Hotel, Box Hill, burning down many years ago (different accounts just say it was demolished). This had to be it - a road called white horse road with a story about a white horse statue! That was too easy.

Before I made the long trek from my hotel, I thought I would try to find it on google street view. Well, I found it, but it was not the same horse, and it was mounted high on a plinth (Jesse's was not). Back to square one, but there could not be that many white horses in Melbourne.

Model Horse Society

Some more googling revealed a strange Melbourne based society / club where they show each other their 'model horses' and hold competitions (Australasian International Model Horse Club! ). Maybe this was it, collectors of full sized horse models? This would mean that the horse is no longer where it was shot, and I almost certainly would not track it down, but the story was interesting. They even have a model horse show. Turns out most of these are mostly tiny,

Model horses, but not the right size.

So I now know more about strange horse societies than I probably ever wanted to, but no closer to finding Jesse's horse.

I left Melbourne having been unsuccessful.

Some months passed and I was re-watching the video 'in-sight' on Vimeo (highly recommended photography film from Nick Turpin of In-Public). Jesse is featured and at one point talks about the Horse image. Hang on, he gave some clues here.

A Load of Waffle

With another trip to Melbourne planned next year, it was time to resurface my investigation from London using streetview and some clues from Jesse. Here are the clues:

  • He stated it was Melbourne

  • He mentioned the yellow tram barrier (I already worked that out)

  • He mentions two lanes of traffic between the barrier and the horse

  • He mentions Waffle Paint Stores across Melbourne and that they bring out the horse every day.

OK, google, white horse, Waffle, Melbourne. Nothing. I quickly worked out that Waffle should actually be Wattyl. Ah, Wattyl paint store. Must be Jesse's accent.

I used google maps to identify every single Wattyl Paint store in Melbourne area (there are quite a few). I then used street view to try to find a store near a tram stop, with two lanes of traffic, and ideally a white horse outside. Nothing.

I then stumbled across a white horse on google images with some text related to 'Paint Spot' stores in Melbourne. Hey, did Jesse lead me up the garden path with the wrong paint store reference. Is he deliberately misleading us all to hide his methods?

Right, now to find every Paint Spot store in Melbourne to find a white horse, tram stop and two lanes of traffic. There are even more Paint Spots than Wattyls. And multiple stores have white horses, but none are the right one...

Not the horse, no tram.

Note the Wattyl sigh outside. Maybe Jesse wasn't trying to mislead me. Wrong horse though. No tram.

Not the right horse. No tram.

Keeping in mind that Jesse's photograph was from some years ago, it is possible that the horse was stolen / replaced with a different one, and that the barriers have gone or store moved.

Help me find Jesse's horse

I am still looking, but if anyone knows where Jesse's horse is, please let me know. I actually bumped into Jesse at the Leica store in Sydney on a previous trip. Maybe I should have asked him, but that would probably have taken the fun out of it.

So, I will update this article as I get closer to my goal. In the meantime the best I can do is a bear. I have learned though that there are too many white horses in Melbourne.

A bear having fun in Margate, UK

UPDATE: I was convinced the horse / store had moved since I checked them all out on Street View. Now Jesse has hinted on a message that it might still exist. I think he is sending me on a wild goose chase (or wild horse chase). I will update here if progress is made.

UPDATE: I found it, this article concludes in another post.

See my similar stalking of Trent Parke, slightly more successful. Tony Ray Jones coming soon.

First image is copyright Jesse Marlow, used with permission.


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