I chose Standerwick because it was easy to get to (being just outside Frome), the lighting is terrible and I’m interested in the working lives of others. To say it’s a challenging environment is something of an understatement; there is constant movement with animals entering and leaving the auction ring and even the people don’t tend to stay still for long. Even at high ISOs and open apertures, shutter speeds struggle to get above 1/60th under the mostly sodium lighting.
The animal pens and auction ring aren’t designed for aesthetics, but I wanted to explore the relationship between the farmers, traders and the animals. What I didn’t want was for the project to become an examination of the morals of the livestock industry, and I was pleasantly surprised by the care taken to keep the animals safe in what is a fairly hectic environment.
The photo featured here, taken at the Wednesday sheep sale represents a glimpse of the social side of the market, where farmers get to catch up on the gossip. The industry consists mostly of older men, this chap being a fine example. The flat caps are ubiquitous and indicative of the generation and gender which dominates, and it’s hard to see how the dairy industry will survive with so few younger people involved, though I was once told the youngsters are all left back at the farm doing the hard graft, this being an opportunity for the old hands to get out for a break from the daily grind.
It was interesting to see the different aspects of the market too. On Wednesdays there’s the sheep, dairy cows and calf sale. On Fridays it’s breeding stock and store cattle. It’s one of the few places you’ll still hear the auctioneer talking numbers so fast it can make you dizzy, but I spent enough time on site to work out the patter.
Because the market has recently changed hands and my commissioned work picked up significantly, the project itself has somewhat ground to a halt. In an ideal world I would like to mount a print exhibition in the centre of Frome, where the cattle market used to be before the facility at Standerwick was built, but I don’t feel I got to finish the narrative. I don’t know if I’ll get to finish it, but even if I don’t, doing this project helped me learn a lot about myself, my photography and perhaps most importantly, an industry I’d never given much thought to previously.
Tim Gander started in local newspapers in 1988, freelancing for The Bath Chronicle before taking the NCE in newspaper photography at Sheffield, after which he landed a staff job at The Portsmouth News. After six years at The News, Tim left to pursue a freelance career for national newspapers and agencies until he moved to Frome, Somerset, from where he now supplies commercial and corporate photography with an editorial twist to regional and national businesses.
See more work by Tim Gander