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  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier

Blood to Rubies IMAGE SHOWCASE: Marian Gadzalski

One of the greatest equine photographers in the world not only captured the beauty of horses, but the human veneration of them

Marian Gadzalski was a Polish photographer who became famous world-wide for his magnificent photographs–both black and white and color–of horses. I did not learn about Gadzalski's work until after he died quite young in a car accident in Poland in 1987.

I had just graduated with a Master's in Journalism at the University of Iowa and went home to rural Iowa to help my mother take care of my dying grandmother. I was lucky to find one of the coolest jobs on the planet amidst the rural cornfields of Iowa; I became the marketing director for one of the leading Arabian Horse Farms in the world, Bru-Bet Arabians, during a time when the Arabian industry was on fire. I couldn't believe my luck! I'd grown up with horses, had them and ridden them all my life, and was even a rodeo queen. And I loved Arabian horses!

Bru-Bet Arabians was one of the leading Arabian breeders in the world and specialized in the Bask line. They had several world-champion stallions standing at stud, including JJ Jabask, who in 1985 was syndicated for $6 million!! Another stallion was High Hopes, five-time National Champion.

There were so many wonderful aspects of that job, but one of my favorites was placing advertising and editorial in the gorgeous magazines of the Arabian industry. There were three main publications (see below) and each month all three were at least an inch thick!

It was during my time at Bru-Bet that I read about Marian Gadzalski, when one of the magazines featured an 8-page spread on him and his work after he died. He often worked in black-and-white photography, and his images were simply awe-inspiring and so powerful. Below are some of the images featured "In Memoriam" of Marian Gadzalski in the magazine spread.

After I decided to feature black-and-white images as chapter headers in my novel, I knew right away that I wanted to use some of Gadzalski's images. I used these two (see below). The farmer with plow horse (left) is the header for the chapter, "beseech the earth." That chapter is about an old pioneer woman named Gert Houston, who remembers her husband, John, and two babies lost years before to an Indian raid. She had been in the woods collecting berries and survived. But even years later, she still yearned for John and remembered him working their prairie homestead.

The other image (right) of restive horses in the nighttime was used for the chapter, "footfalls under a full moon." In that chapter, Chief Joseph's band and other Nez Perce bands gather all their people and horses to convene at the Camas Prairie, a sacred ancestral ground of the Nimiipuu for many thousands of years, to begin their grueling 1,500-mile exodus to the Canadian border, rather than live in subjugation on the reservation. Both images capture so poignantly the narrative in each chapter.

Special Thanks

I am most grateful to Marian's two daughters, Hannah Gadzalski-Syfert and Ola Gadzalski, for generously granting permission to use their father’s photographs in this book, and to Artur Bober, director of the Polish Digital Equestrian Library. You can learn more about Marian Gadzalski and his work at: and the website of the Polish magazine, Blok, www.

About the Images in Blood to Rubies

My debut novel is extremely unique in historical fiction since it features 70 black-and-white images. I searched high and low to find these images and worked with the world's most iconic libraries, including the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, National Archives, the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale University, the National Park Service, the Nez Perce Historical Park Service, the Polish Digital Equestrian Library, special private collections, and many state historical societies. The images help tell the story of my main character, a fictional frontier photographer, Frederick Cortland. Many are 1800s archival images from real frontier photographers. But some are from the world's leading contemporary photographers of the American West, of horses, and of the Nez Perce.

To learn more about the other photographers and their work featured in Blood to Rubies, see links below.


"Blood to Rubies IMAGE SHOWCASE: Marian Gadzalski" was originally posted March 27, 2024 on and Facebook.

You may also enjoy these related IMAGE SHOWCASES of other world-renown photographers featured in Blood to Rubies:



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Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook


Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  


Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on, Facebook, and Instagram.

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