Saturday, 8 July 2017

Summer's here

May might be the month when agricultural shows start each year, but July is when it can be difficult to decide which one to visit. I would imagine that when these events started out they were attended by farming folk intent of exhibiting and inspecting animals with side shows of country crafts and a steam powered roundabout for the children's entertainment and a brass band and beer tent for the amusement of the adults.These days they seem to be more a hybrid of 'family fun days' and farmer's markets than livestock shows.

While the competition is no doubt as fiercely contended as it ever was, and the judging as strict, there are few entries in the sheep and cattle classes at the smaller shows. Which is a shame

For all there is going on I can never settle on an approach to photographing these shows. They've been a subject for documentary photography for as long as I can remember. As a consequence there are certain well repeated visual clich├ęs that have developed. Then there are the inevitable candid shots of rural 'characters'. Trying to find a different way to depict things, without becoming too obtuse, is really difficult. Then there are the inevitable restrictions on access and vantage point.

A longish lens provides one option. Not to take 'sneaky' pictures of people from a distance but to compress space and make visual abstractions. That runs the risk of making pictures which go just a bit too far outside the box.

With the poultry section being restricted just to eggs at this show, as a hang over from the avian flu restrictions, I had hoped to concentrate on the heavy horses. Unfortunately the layout of the showground meant that the only angles for their show ring entailed shooting into the sun. On an overcast day that wouldn't have mattered, but today was seasonally bright. The cattle ring gave the best option. getting a decent viewpoint was the problem. My efforts were pretty much rubbish.

The egg show was quiet. More out of desperation than anything I gave my wide angle lens a go, using the flip down screen to give me a low angle without having to kneel down. It wasn't the soggy ground that bothered me, it was my dodgy knees and getting back up again! To a degree this approach worked. A bit more depth of field would have helped with hindsight. It's something to explore a bit more in future.

There was a lot to see, but mostly only worthy of a snap or two. Some of which can be seen in a gallery.

In the world of mistaken identities I usually get associated with serial killers. Peter Sutcliffe when I was younger and Harold Shipman after my beard went grey. I'm quite used to people asking if I work for the local paper or Lancashire Life when I'm at these events, but it was quite a shock for someone to stop me today and ask if I was Martin Parr! Other than using cameras, being a similar height and wearing glasses I don't think there's any resemblance. Maybe he noticed the sort of subjects I was concentrating on? Who knows.

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