Assignment 2: Contact Sheets and Selection

Greg Kellaway - Steve Middlehurst 2016

Greg Kellaway – Steve Middlehurst 2016

Over the course of three days I took around 1,500 photographs on the Kellaway farms so the editing and selection process has been lengthy. As the assignment calls for five photographs there is no scope to include any contextual images so this did slightly narrow down the possible images. The long-list of 3:2 aspect possibles is shown here as contact sheets.

Contact Sheet 1

Contact Sheet 1

  • By framing the subject inside the machinery of the milking parlour G01 and G08 potentially provide context for the other portraits and counter any ideas of milking stools or rustic sheds.
  • G06 has the benefit of including the milling process showing Greg attaching the equipment to a cow’s udders. I used the flash less in Greg’s parlour than in Lewis’ as the lighting was better both in terms of the strip lights and, after dawn some natural light coming through skylights. As a daylight flash photograph G06 has the benefit of retaining a high level of contrast which suits the industrial nature of the process.
  • G12 is graphically exciting with the early morning light penetrating the entrance area to the milking shed and has the added strength of showing the mess left by 170 cows waiting to be milked and the labour involved with cleaning up after them.
Contact Sheet 2

Contact Sheet 2

  • G13 is as G12 on the previous contact sheet.
  • G17 was a candid shot taken as we moved from one part of the farm to another, it shows Greg deep in thought planning the rest of his day. Greg is a great talker and always busy so this was an unusually calm moment away from the herd.
  • G20 puts Greg into the context of his herd which was still being kept indoors at the time of the first shoot. By the second shoot the pasture land had more grass and the cows were out for the first time this year. It also shows Greg on the phone which I came to realise was a common occurrence.
  • G21 shows Greg with a steer and one of his two bulls (the brown and white). The composition appeals to me; he is admiring the bull who is working hard to increase the herd.
  • G23 represents the relationship between the herdsman and his cows. They are economic assets but there was no doubt that Greg likes cows and treated them with great affection. He was proud of these young animals and thought that these were shots I needed to take. “This would make a good photograph”
Contact Sheet 3

Contact Sheet 3

  • These are the first shots on Lewis’ farm.
  • L01 is probably my favourite photograph from the whole shoot. Lewis is ear tagging a young calf. There is movement, the calf’s eye is prominent and the complexity of such a simple task is well represented; he has a set of pliers under one arm, the calf’s head in his hand and another set of pliers and a tag in his left hand.
  • I haven’t flagged up L03 for the short list because it was taken through the windscreen of my car as we moved from Lewis’ farm back to his house for lunch. His mother is driving the pick up truck. These men are incapable of resting, he is taking the opportunity to check that Beau the dog is in good shape whilst sitting in the back of the pick-up truck in the pouring rain. It also shows that the sun doesn’t always shine on West Country farmers; it was a truly filthy day.
  • Lo6 and L07 both capture the concentration in Lewis’ face when he milks his herd. Each animal is visually checked, the herdsmen can sense problems from the cows’ body language, how they stand, how they address the feed bins. They hand milk for a few moments before attaching the milking equipment to check for any problems. I asked Lewis whether he could recognise each cow as an individual, he answered that he know many of them by sight but could recognise every one by feeling their udders.
  • L08 had to make the short list. This cow hung back from the herd as Lewis rounded them up for milking. Apparently she will stand at the back until Lewis goes to her after which she is happy to join the herd. The herdsmen see different personality traits in the cows and Lewis knows that handling her is part of her daily routine.
  • L10 emphasises that this, in Lewis’ mother’s words is “a hard farm” it is poorly set up and cows have to be moved in and out of pens to facilitate milking. The rain was nearly horizontal and the cows were not rushing to enter the milking parlour so Lewis needed to guide them in whilst making sure that I am not about to join the herd in the next pen.
Contact Sheet 4

Contact Sheet 4

  • These pictures show the other side of Greg’s farm which is nestled in a beautiful landscape.
  • I like the composition in G26 and the relationship between Greg and the leafless tree. It shows how his personality dominates the landscape. This is his land.
  • G28 through to G31 put him into the context of the land but G28 is deceptive as the cattle in the distance are from his neighbour’s herd.
  • G32 through G34 were part of an attempt to photograph Greg with his favourite trees (I discussed his biographical relationship with the land here). These are the only posed photographs in the series.
  • The pigs in G36 are worth mentioning as they are not regular inhabitants of the dairy farm. He has milk to spare and is raising these for his own table. It gave me the opportunity to point out that he was really a hobby farmer after all.
Contact Sheet 5

Contact Sheet 5

  • G37 through G43 are from the second shoot on Greg’s farm. He was marginally more relaxed with the camera and G39 and G42 put him into the context of his herd. As I discussed when reviewing Jean Mohr’s herdsman series (here), Greg is defined by his herd and the final series has to put him into that context. One of the things that struck me throughout all the shoot was the level of awareness in these majestic animals. I was stared at, licked, sniffed and nudged whenever I came near. They realised that I was not a normal sight on their farm and I especially like the way the cow on the right of G42 is staring straight back at the camera.
  • G44 was taken at lunch on the first day. Greg is texting his daughter who is making jokes about the photo shoot. I like the painting of the cows on the wall in the background and the overall composition of this shot.
  • G45 through G48 won’t make the short list because of their 1:1 aspect. Ideally I would have completed the series in this aspect as I generally prefer it for portraits with contextual background but too few of my short listed shots lent themselves to a 1:1 crop.
Contact Sheet 6

Contact Sheet 6

  • I am including these in the long list knowing that the 1:2 aspect might exclude them from the final series.
  • G49 sums up Greg. As dawn breaks he is clearing cow muck from the milking parlour, an endless task during milking, like all farmers if something can’t be fixed using binder twine it’s not worth fixing. The combination if the muck filled yard, the representation of hard manual labour and his make and mend attitude as expressed by the binder twine all reflect aspects of Greg’s identity.
  • L13 is my favourite portrait of Lewis. My wife was holding an off camera flash gun which suggests he is being lit by light from a doorway. The concentration on his face as he gets ready to ear tag calves perfectly expresses this young man’s attitude to farming.
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5 Responses to Assignment 2: Contact Sheets and Selection

  1. G12: glorious! L13, brilliant mood!

  2. Catherine says:

    Are you going to create a book Steve. You’re weaving such a good narrative around the images.

    • As assignment of I&P is just 5 pictures it won’t be a book this time but assignment 5 calls for a self directed project. I was in the process of collecting dog walkers in the mode of Keith Arnatt but I want to have a discussion with my new tutor as to whether I should now carry the farms forward. My research suggests that this is a subject matter that few have addressed and feel that between now and the autumn or early winter I could develop these two farms and the two framers into a coherent project. I would then have the scope to work with my subjects off the farm as the father is involved in country pursuits and the son plays rugby and dives. It feels like the kind of project I would enjoy as I’m a country boy (!) at heart.

      • Catherine says:

        Go for it! I now have “A Fortunate Man” to read. Very different from “Ways of Seeing” – almost lyrical and romanticised and not recognising the strains and stresses suffered by the doctor – acknowledging them certainly but not empathic somehow, where the man becomes a metaphorical representative of a dedicated profession. I am struck by the notion of ‘value’ and how do you measure this between different professions and this book and your project have highlighted this for me.

      • Thank you for your comments, the more I think about it the more I want to take this project much further. It helps that the Kellaway family are wonderfully generous, honest and charming people who are a pleasure to spend time with. It makes up for getting up at 3am to drive to Dorset in time for milking. I have spent my life around farmers and farmed a very different crop than cows for a number of years and am now in the food industry so I feel very strongly about how “we” undervalue both the product of farming and the industry itself and was surprised that it appears to be under covered as a photo subject. I have become a bit of a John Berger / Jean Mohr addict. I have to admit that I saw Berger as a sort of critic-philosopher and had not expected the wonderful writing style of A Fortunate Man. If you haven’t tried “Now Let’s Praise Famous Men” I can tell you that Berger is far easier to read and much less self indulgent but the two books share the same fact – fiction – philosophical style which is multi layered and interesting. I can also recommend Another way of Telling.

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