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The short film Chasing Wild Horses follows photographer Robert Dutesco as he seeks out the wild horses of Sable Island, a protected area 300 km from Halifax. (Arcadia)

Roberto Dutesco has worked for years as a fashion photographer in New York City for magazines such as Vogue, Maxim, GQ and Vanity Fair.

But the Romanian-born photographer also has another passion — the wild horses of Sable Island.

Halifax filmmaker Matt Trecartin chronicled Dutesco's obsession in the short film Chasing Wild Horses, which will screen Saturday at the Atlantic Film Festival.

Dutesco, in Halifax earlier this week, said he became fascinated with the horses of Sable Island in the early 1990s.

"They reminded me very much of the supermodels I used to photograph," he said in an interview with CBC News. He described the horses as curious and affectionate, as well as beautiful.

In the 1990s he saw a National Film Board documentary about Sable Island, a protected area 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax that people cannot visit without special permission from the Canadian Coast Guard.

Since then, Dutesco has travelled to the island five times.

'Something magical'

"My effort was about getting to Sable Island, and once I was there I felt that … something magical will happen, and it did," he said.

He describes his travels and especially his encounters with the horses as a "spectacular journey."

Dutesco said he set out from his camp each day, not knowing where the horses would be, and then would catch sight of them trotting toward him "as curious about me as I was about them."

Their presence also helped him after a frightening experience on the island.

"On my last journey as I was walking back towards the camp I stepped in some quicksand … I got myself out of it and as I was walking back … about 10 different horses, all of them came to me. My heart was still beating fairly fast because of what had just happened — and they all came to me and surrounded me and I could feel their breath all around and the mist and the midnight sky. That was such an incredible gift," he said.

Director Trecartin spent long hours with Dutesco on Sable Island, recording his interaction with the horses. Dutesco himself narrates the documentary.

"What’s special about the place, it’s the only place I know I was really alone, and like the end of the world, and the end of the world with nobody in sight is very beautiful," Dutesco said.

His photos of the horses have been shown around the world and can be seen at his Soho gallery in New York City.

The film, backed by Arcadia Entertainment of Halifax, will also be shown at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival on Sept. 25.

With files from Phlis McGregor