The livestock portrait series was a collaborative effort with the Stamford Museum & Nature Center. They run the Heckscher Farm that sits on 10 acres of land in Stamford, CT and it is home to farm animals and heritage breed livestock. Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds of a bygone era, before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. Together we captured all of these portraits to raise awareness of the dwindling numbers of these heritage breeds and for the farm itself. Some of these heritage breeds that we photographed are on the The Livestock Conservancy Conservation Priority List ; the Randall Cattle, Jacob Sheep, Clydesdale horse, Miniature Sicilian donkeys and the Scottish Highland.
The approach that we took for this project was to capture animals in their normal, everyday environment with full length portraits and then showcase their personality with tighter head shots on a white background. One hurdle that we encountered was getting the animals to stand and face the way we wanted them to. Some of the animals were used to a lead but the majority had no grasp of verbal commands, except for the horses and the Randall cattle that were much easier to work with. It was a delicate dance of patience, bribing with food and luck to wrangle these animals, but thankfully we had phenomenal help from two of the farm managers, Victoria and Daniel. Another hurdle was that we couldn’t come in contact with the Scottish Highland (Petunia) at all, so logistically it became a situation where we set everything up and waited for her to walk into the frame and pray that she looked straight at the camera. Probably the most unnerving part of the entire shoot was being the only one in the paddock with Petunia. Everyone else was on the other side of the fence and the only advice I was given from the managers was, ‘well if she starts to charge you, just leave the camera sprint for the fence’. Luckily there was no sprinting involved.
The lighting for these portraits was really simple. We wanted to keep it as naturally lit as possible so we added two soft boxes on either side of the animal to provide just a little bit of fill.
A lot of these breeds are, in a way, living history and helped our forefathers and early settlers cultivate the land. There are some organizations out there such as The Livestock Conservancy (not affiliated with this project) whose sole mission is genetic conservation and the promotion of heritage breeds.
The entire portrait series can be seen on our portfolio: Heckscher Farm and Heritage Breed Livestock
Below are just a few of the behind the scene images.
Daniel wrangling some goats on the left and myself being investigated by one of the resident llamas