The exact origins of the photo aren’t known, but The Advertiser of Adelaide reports that the photographer who captured the trio on film was likely Martin Jacka, who worked for News Limited in the 1980s. The photograph ran in The Advertiser where filmmaker Craig Monahan first saw it.
Monahan has roots in Adelaide and told The Advertiser that he had been interested in doing a film centered around the dolphins of the Port River for years. The image of the three animals swimming together stayed in his mind.
Dolphins inhabit the unique ecosystem of Adelaide’s Port River, which flows into the city from the St. Vincent Gulf. This is said to be the only location in the world where dolphins live wild within a city’s limits.
So what about the horse and dog? Monahan explains that racehorse trainers used to routinely use the beach as a conditioning grounds for their animals. There were stables nearby that trainers would use to house horses for a few days of exercise along the beach and in the water.
Although the dog’s identity is also unknown, it’s likely he belonged to a trainer or someone affiliated with one of the training operations and couldn’t resist a chance to go for a swim. Dolphins are famously curious and social creatures, and it appears this one just wanted to join in the group activity.
Monahan’s film, though inspired by the photograph and currently being produced with the working title “A Dog, a Dolphin, and a Horse,” won’t be about the animals specifically. The film is described as a coming of age story about an 11-year-old named Frankie who comes to Adelaide with her nomadic parents. Left to her own devices, she gets to know the people who make a living along the river and learns about the dolphins who reside there.
Fundraising for the film is currently taking place through the Australian Cultural Fund. Tap here to learn more.
Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. www.lesliepotterphoto.com