Portfolio: Ursula Böhmer
Sunday 02 December 2012
In an age when animal husbandry has been near-uniformly industrialised, the German photographer Ursula Böhmer has worked for more than a decade on a project that reminds us that the beasts caught up in that commercial enterprise remain individuals, even if we prefer not to think of them that way.
"The system in which our society produces meat is really disgusting," she says. "I've never killed an animal and I'm glad that I don't have to. But more and more, I feel that we really should know what we have on our plates."
And so, for her series All Ladies, Böhmer travelled through 25 countries around Europe, photographing 50 breeds on their native terrain, to show how different climates have affected their physiognomy and how the continent's various agrarian cultures – whether they are used as draft animals, for instance, or purely for milking – have influenced their physicality.
"The manners in which cows are represented are manifold," she adds, referring to the significance these animals have held since prehistory, as evidenced by cave paintings, through to modern-day Eastern religions that venerate the animal, "but mostly [in Europe] their dignity is disregarded. I make straight-on frontal portraits of them to 'make contact' with them."
Indeed, the scant backgrounds offer little to interpret, while the bulk of her subjects' corporeality is often hidden by the angle at which the shots are taken, making it the glances the cows give Böhmer that are the focus of her lens.
Whether they are inquisitive, ruminative or merely bored – these are qualities we read into the shots. But whether they are, as above, a Barrosa, an Avileña-Black Ibérica or a Hinterwälder, these are facts. A fact, too, that Böhmer drives home, is that each is distinct not only in breed but also in personality – a distinction it behoves us to remember, lest the mechanisation of our food-making processes dehumanises us. "These are beings," she concludes, "not human, but definitely comparable."
'All Ladies – Cows in Europe' is published by Kehrer, priced £32
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Autistic adults could take pure MDMA to 'reduce social anxiety'
- 2 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 3 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 4 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
- 5 Paracetamol Challenge: Mother of girl killed by overdose pleads with teenagers not to take part
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
'I was raped as a child, and only now can I tell my story': How James Rhodes fought the law courts in a battle to be heard
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'