Henry Dallal: 'Photographing the Queen is a total joy'

Long to rein over us - The Queen with her beloved fell ponies 

Long to rein over us - The Queen with her beloved fell ponies - Credit: Henry Dallal

Sussex-based Royal Photographer Henry Dallal has spent the last 20 years photographing the Monarch and says the experience is humbling and that they bonded over their shared love of horses  

For a man who has spent most of his life in the saddle and has made a career out of photographing horses, among other things, it’s no surprise that Henry Dallal lives within a mile of Goodwood in West Sussex.  

‘If you’re at the race track and stand on the finish line and look down into the valley, you’ll see the hamlet where I live,’ Henry says. ‘I can hear the crowds though I can’t see the actual race from my house. 

‘I could ride my horse straight there though – it's such a wonderful event. I love it though I also love the Members Meeting, which combines everything from Revival and the Festival of Speed but it’s just for the private members. It’s quieter but glorious.’  

Henry, 66, is on his way to London, where he still has a house, though he’s spent all of his time at his Sussex home for the last two-and-a-half-years. He’s due to photograph the Queen the following week and no doubt wants to scope out the setting and decide on a theme for her portrait, the latest of many he’s taken over the last 20 years.  

Henry began taking pictures after his father gave him a Box Brownie camera as a child

Henry began taking pictures after his father gave him a Box Brownie camera as a child - Credit: Henry Dallal

His photograph of the Queen with two of her fell horses in the grounds of Windsor Castle for her 96th birthday has been seen around the world, something he says is ‘humbling.’  

The royal photographer was also behind the camera for both her Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations and is no doubt excited about the upcoming session with the Monarch, presumably for her Platinum Jubilee.  

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‘Photographing Her Majesty is amazing,’ he says. ‘She is always very pleasant and very nice – she’s never complicated,’ he says. ‘I’ll go and do a recce before a shoot to check out the location and come up with a theme, and get everything ready, and on the day of the shoot she will come out and within five to ten minutes the shot is there. 

‘But she is happy to stay on. For the most recent picture, her birthday portrait, I asked her to come to another location and she chatted to the horses and to the people. She is always happy to stay a bit longer.’  

The Queen is the Colonel-in-Chief of the Household Cavalry  which Henry wrote a book about, and it is their shared love of horses that brought about their introduction.  

Henry has been photographing the Queen for more than 20 years 

Henry has been photographing the Queen for more than 20 years - Credit: Henry Dallal

He’s reticent to say more except that ‘it’s an incredible honour to photograph Her Majesty’ but she’s not the only royal he’s photographed. On his website there are portraits of Princess Anne, more of the queen – next to a painting of George III ‘which if you look carefully, you’ll notice how I set up the eye line - his eyes are looking at the Queen while she is looking straight into the camera’ and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. 

Henry, who was born in Iran and moved to America after the revolution before arriving in London in 1994, took the Sheikh’s portrait out in the desert with his pet cheetah, Leyla.  

‘No, it wasn’t on a lead,’ he laughs. ‘But I wasn’t afraid – it's a pet, so yes, it’s a cheetah but it’s not wild. It’s still an animal though, so I couldn’t take an hour to get just the right shot, I had to be quick, but it was a fun assignment. Afterwards the Sheikh spoke about the desert, and was very knowledgeable.’  

Nowadays, Henry, who started taking photographs after being given a Box Brownie Kodak camera by his father as a child, is busy teaching his own son to take photographs.  

‘He’s eight and I’ve told him that taking a picture is like telling a bedtime story – it has to be interesting, not boring.’  

He and his wife love the quiet life in the Sussex countryside. They have four horses, King, Ears, William and Teddy, sometimes go into their local, The Fox Goes Free, and enjoy cooking at home.  

The Sussex landscape inspires Henry 

The Sussex landscape inspires Henry - Credit: Henry Dallal

‘Obviously, the surroundings are incredible,’ he says. ‘The forests, the beaches, they are all spectacular. We’re surrounded by nature, and wildlife, and it’s so inspirational. There’s so much to do – there's never an idle moment.’  

With that he continues his drive to the capital and his looming engagement with the queen. Does it involve horses? He won’t say, but he’s spoken out about working with them before.  

‘The biggest challenge is to make sure the four-legged friends are also smiling at the same time and looking at you,’ he told OK! ‘But you never have to ask the Queen to smile.’