Richard Kalvar. French Agriculture

Kalvar traveled to the small town of Pleben in the Brittany region of France in 2016, to spend time with local stockbreeders and veterinarians, documenting the issues around farming in France. He got to know the people involved to document their stories of the deterioration of the farming industry through images and text.

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France. Paris. Salon de l’Agriculture. Prize-winning Basque pigs burrowing under the straw: Gatzian on the left, Gerezi on the right, 2016. 

Although the majority of the images are in colour, some are in black and white. I find this really useful for me to look at, as i will be documenting a similar theme also in black and white. I can see why this works in BW, as the natural contrast in the pigs skin works with the set colours. Without, it could be possible for them to get lost in the straw, as the texture is a lot more intense than on the skin of the animal. It could also be argued that black and white can make subjects look more vulnerable. These prize winning pigs have been turned back to their most natural state for this photograph, which may be why it has be stripped of colour.

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France. Brittany. Finistère. Pleyben. At Jean-François Mathurin’s pig farm. 2016

But i do also enjoy the images in colour, as i feel many animals are strongly recognised for their colours as a prime feature. Such as here, the pink skin and yellow mud tones create a subtle contrast that looks soft against the pigs expression of innocence. I feel the black and white and colour images tell a different story, with the BW suggesting innocence and a sympathetic story, and the colour a documentary of the pig.


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France. Brittany. Finistère. Lennon. GAEC de Quillivenec, Ronan Jézéquel leads his cows to the barn to be milked. 2016

This is one of my favourite images from the story, as it is such a simple but well framed shot. It isn’t unusual to see a frame like this, even in England, and without the caption it wouldn’t be evident that this was France. Its a shot that combines all farmers, that look after their animals in the environment they have. It presents how they still continue to work and have many livestock, although from the text we learn that this is not a good way of making a living in France.

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France. Brittany. Finistère. Lennon. GAEC de Quillivenec. Two of the four associates of the Quillivenec farm, François Lharidon and Sophie Jézéquel. 2016
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France. Brittany. Finistère. Pleyben. Xavier Rannou’s livestock farm. To prepare his cows for the annual agricultural fair in Pleyben, Xavier Rannou washes them with high-pressure water. 2016

There are both staged, and natural images of the farmers. I think staged photographs are useful to introduce or inform the viewer about a person, but the natural shots are important to really educate and allow the viewer to see what the person does when they aren’t aware of the camera. I think Kalvar has a good mix of the two, allowing the viewer to gain a wide knowledge of the people involved, their farms and animals. Neither subjects are given priority, it seems to document the whole process of the farm.

It is nice to see a documentary piece on a farm, which people like me benefit from. Often on Magnum, there are photo stories of farms in places such as Georgia or Mexico, which are usually of lesser of people that are struggling to work. What is refreshing here, is that the workers are clean, working class people, and they work in environments that we are familiar with. I can relate to the images like they are from a farm in Devon, as the animals and process is the same, and i feel his photographic style emphasises this.

“A combination of factors make the cost of production higher than competitors: Labour is more expensive in France as employers have to pay more to the government per employee; French law limits working hours to 35 hours a week, meaning more staff are needed or lower productivity; there are also strict laws governing the treatment of animals, such as how much space they have to move around in, and waste management and treatment of the environment.”

The text introduces the story but describing simply what Kalvar is doing in France, before going in to detail about the situation of the farms. This context is important, as the images could be of any farm, well or not well of, but the text allows us to relate to the fact they are going through a hard time, and allows us to sympathise with this.


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