DCSIMG

Farming: Photographers bring new Style to livestock world

  • by ANDREW ARBUCKLE
 

Farming is a largely traditional occupation and many of those in businesses linked to agriculture have the same basic conservatism.

I give as one example the profession of livestock photography. Over the years, I have known many of the best snappers in the business. We rub alongside each other in the press rooms at the various events on the farming calendar. It could be alleged that they make these work rooms untidy with all the accoutrements that they deem ­necessary to taking a picture nowadays, but generally we scribes thole their presence.

What is in less doubt is the time they take to get one of their artistic impressions (their description) or snaps (the journalists’ description) of the animals that have just picked up the top prices or the championship awards.

Generally, while the journalists wait with pen and pad ready to take down all the important details of when the prizewinner last triumphed and who his father and mother might have been, the photographers try to capture the beast in the best possible light.

This is some performance. The champion’s ears must be forward. The legs must be four square, the head must be high and so on. We journalists get to wait while all this goes on.

Occasionally one of us pen-pushers might be asked to act as a “whore” – or at least that is what it sounds like. This requires the person to stand in front of the beast and wave a white hankie, all the time making a “who-ing” noise. The theory is the animal then pricks its ears forward and the snapper gets a pic of an alert champion. Job done.

Royal protocol forbids me from inserting too many details in relating the tale of one of the most eminent livestock photographers who had been asked to take a photo of the late Queen Mother for her Christmas card.

She had seen what he could achieve with her beloved North Country Cheviots and he became royally appointed (temporarily).

All was going well, with the Queen Mum in exceedingly good form and with her castle in the background. The photographer momentarily forgot he was not dealing with livestock and asked her to “cock her lugs forward.”

In a previous era, he could have been frogmarched off to the Tower but she instead rewarded him with a radiant smile and he took a wonderful portrait of the lady.

The photographers of today are still capturing snaps – sorry, serious artistic impressions – of animals in the same manner as the livestock artists were with palette and canvas a century and more ago. You know them – the pictures that seemingly adorn every country pub in England, where an impossibly square lump of sheep, pig or cow fills the frame.

The modern equivalents are the photographs of the champions and the prizewinners, and every livestock breeder, breed society and auction company has walls covered with them. And in every photograph, the beast is standing four square to the camera and, apart from the colour and breed of the animal, all of them are identical in style.

So congratulations to two young photographers – both already at the top of their job in taking livestock photographs – for the video they cooked up at last week’s Stirling bull sales.

I refuse to use the term “it is going viral” as that sounds like it has caught a bad disease, but if you would like to see some well-known characters from the pedigree world getting into the swing of a Gangnam Style-esque video, then this is an inspired piece of work.

It combines a fair bit of youthful enthusiasm with a degree of editing skill and the end result is three-and-a-half minutes of fun – a level of fun that I never thought I would see in such a sale so steeped in tradition.

So well done Catherine MacGregor and Catherine Laurenson.

My goodness, it is also only a week since I listened to opera singing at an annual meeting of the National Farmers Union. Whatever is the farming world coming to? As far as I am concerned, it is a load of fun.

 

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