On January 17th Keswick Photographic Society heard an excellent presentation from farmer, mother and professional photographer Amy Bateman, author of the extremely well received book: “Forty Farms”. This, Lakeland Book of the Year, contains descriptions of forty widely disparate farms across the breadth of Cumbria, with interviews with the farmers concerned and illustrated with Amy’s excellent photographs.
What was a dauntingly large task in itself to complete, has continued as Amy travels around giving talks and presentations as a follow up and all of which provides an essential supplement to the income her family receives from their own farming enterprise.
The bulk of her talk consisted of short descriptions of over half of the farms featured in her book with anecdotes about her visits, including meeting intractable bulls, an Ostrich(!), and a donkey that lived with a herd of bulls and kept them under total control. (She was advised not to worry about the bulls, they were all subservient and docile, but not to approach the donkey!). Many of the farms were introducing conservation measures to both increase the natural biodiversity and regenerate the soil but she included a large highly genetically driven cow breeding operation, a sheep-milking business that made its own wonderful cheese, an egg-producer that combined very natural woodland based free-range living with high tech egg checking and packing facilities, and even the farm attached to the three Michelin star, L’Enclume, in Cartmel, which produces all of the restaurant’s vegetables and herbs and where Amy tried her hand at flying her photography drone through the poly tunnels, with not totally successful results.
Amy has won a number of photographic awards, none more prestigious than being the winner of British Photographer of the Year with an atmospheric self portrait of her hand feeding a newborn lamb in the middle of the night.
She also delivers workshops to other photographers teaching them about techniques to record farming life and giving them privileged access to parts of farms normally out of bounds.
The audience that had dared to come out into the sub-zero temperatures were thoroughly entertained, educated and inspired in equal measure and could only agree with the quote that Amy put up at the end of her talk from the great photographer Don McCullin, “Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.” Amy had evidently succeeded in this aspiration.