My name is Claire Watson and for my last year studying for a BA in photography at the University of Northampton, I chose to do my final major project on rare breeds of farm animals and poultry in the UK. I wanted to created a visual archive of these rare breed farm animals in case they should ever go extinct. In order to capture the public's interest I chose to photograph these animals in a classical portraiture style by photographing them against a dark studio background so that viewers could appreciate the exquisite beauty of the animals and get a sense of the fragility of the endangered states of these animals by creating a dark atmosphere in these portraits where the animals appear to be emerging from the shadows of the background. I wanted to capture the beauty and personalities of these animals in order to encouage people to help preserve them. I also captured natural portraits of these animals in their outdoor environments.
Many UK breeds of farms animals and poultry are endangered of going extinct over the next couple of years, some breed numbers are so low that they have become more endangered then Giant Pandas. Over the course of my project I have discovered that it is important to preserve these rare breeds not just for their sakes but to also keep the genetic diversity of UK livestock going. That's why its essential that these breeds of animals and poultry should be preserved and protected.
Below is the introduction that is in my Preservation: Rare Breeds Farm Animals Photography Book.
For my final major project as part of my BA Photography degree, I have chosen to document UK rare breeds of farm animals and poultry. I have always been passionate about animals; when I became interested in photography I decided to combine the two together to specialise in animal portraiture. My aim is to document these rare breeds, to create a visual archive for the future. This is vital as some of these breeds are in danger of extinction unless they are conserved; some of these breeds like the Suffolk Punch horse are even rarer than Giant Pandas.
During this project I have considered the reasons why stocks of rare breeds should be sustained; I have conducted interviews with rare breed owners and commercial farmers to gain further insight. One of these reasons is to maintain the genetic diversity within the farming industry; we need the genes of older native breeds to create productive and resilient animals for the future. I have captured photos in the natural environment and as studio portraits. I have photographed a wide range of rare breed animals from a Suffolk Punch horse to a Scott Dumpy Bantam chicken. It is my hope that these atmospheric and classical portraits of the animals will emphasise their beauty and noble presence to a wider audience. I want the direct gazes of these animals to inspire people and encourage them to help protect and conserve these rare breeds for the future, in order for future generations to learn more about them. Just because we think we have the 'perfect' animal for today it is important not to forget about tomorrow.
It is only through the intervention of organisations like The Rare Breeds Survival Trust, rare breed support groups and passionate individual farmers, who support, protect and conserve these rare breeds so that we can still see these unique and special animals. Without these domesticated farm animal species, mankind would not have been able to advance beyond the hunter gatherer stage of development.
A breed is considered rare when the number of breeding females is reduced to a critical level and insufficient young are being born to maintain a breeding population. Between 1900 and 1973 the UK lost 26 native breeds of livestock and in addition many varieties of poultry. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust was founded in 1973 to halt this decline. Since then no native breed has become extinct. The UK breeds that did become extinct include the Suffolk Dun cattle, the Lincolnshire Curly Coat pig, Cushendale and the Goonhilly ponies. Many native UK rare breeds that have survived into modern times are still seriously threatened and still need our help.
Many people might ask why should we bother spending time and money to preserve these rare breeds? Well the answer is that these farm animals are the ancestors and cornerstone of British farming and therefore deserve our respect. We also need these rare breeds for their genetic material for breeding future breeds. They should also be conserved for their own sakes.