8 December 2000

HILLFARMINGINFOCUS…

The hill farming way of life

has been immortalised in a

new photographic exhibition.

Tom Montgomery reports

TESSA Bunney spent six months taking over 1000 images of North Yorkshire hill farmers going about their daily lives.

Though conscious of the hard times many of her subjects were enduring, Tessa set out to "create a positive picture of a way of life worth saving, rather than concentrating on the gloom and doom side."

She was astonished by the hill farmers commitment. "There is a tremendous sense of pride in their history, many farms having been handed down from generation to generation," she says.

Though she lives in the deeply rural North Yorkshire village of Kilburn, Tessa entered the farming scene as an outsider but her respect for its solid values grew quickly.

"They made me feel very welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them. I was struck by their tenacity in carrying on through the present hard times. Though money was short their animals never suffered for lack of it."

She made her contacts through the North Yorks Moors Quality Sheep Association and the Blackface Sheep Association. One farmer she met had never been to agricultural college but was ahead of his time 50 years ago. He farmed organically long before it was fashionable, had conserved his regional distinctive stone buildings and had planted trees on hillsides too steep to cultivate.

"Most hill farmers are very conscious of the environment and dedicated to preserving the landscape," said Tessa, who has chosen 28 photographs for the exhibition which she hopes "celebrates the life and culture of the hill farmer as something worth fighting for." It is a subject on which she is still focusing.

*This work can be seen in the Brilliant Exhibition at the Impressions Gallery, York until Jan 6.

Candid camera…photos of farmers George Allison

(above) and William Woods feature in the exhibition.