Contrary to popular belief in certain quarters, polo is not just a rich people’s pastime confined to the Hamptons and Palm Beach; nor is it merely an extremely lucrative clothing empire founded by Ralph Lauren. In fact, it’s an ancient and noble game, as well as the world’s oldest team sport, that has evolved into an entire way of life. In her upcoming book Polo: The Nomadic Tribe (available for pre-order on Amazon), photographer Aline Coquelle chronicles all aspects of the ultimate equestrian pursuit, tracing polo from its nomadic origins to the incomparably chic lifestyle it encompasses today. Coquelle, who studied art and anthropology, travelled around the world for five years photographing and writing about each significant place along the route of polo’s evolution, capturing all its courage, strength, speed, style, beauty, elegance and allure.
Polo was first played in Persia well before the 1st century AD. Warlike tribesmen played it with as many as 100 to a side in what were essentially a miniature battle. Later on it was passed from Persia to other parts of Asia including the Indian subcontinent and China, where it was very popular during the Tang Dynasty. The name polo is said to have been derived from the Tibetan word “pulu”, meaning ball. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, India, in 1834. The British, who are seen as the main proponents of the sport today, picked it up in India and the classic style of the colonial era with its overtones of aristocrats and army officers gives polo much of its current cachet, cleverly marketed by the aforementioned Mr. Lauren and others.
Divided into geographic sections, Coquelle’s book presents the sport on a global scale. At locations around the world, “the vibrant green carpeted fields, the carefully ornamented players, the brilliant sheen of their horses, and the deep brown leather of their saddles” provides an aesthetic link between polo’s devotees – the “nomadic tribe” of the title. She reveals the essence of what has historically been called the “Sport of Kings” and the passion of its players from across the globe. Designed to be “the ultimate book on the sport of polo,” Coquelle offers “an homage to beauty in pursuit of a modern perspective” while maintaining the spirit and sophistication of this centuries-old game. See the gallery for a preview of some stunning images from this incredible book.