The Cow Sale, Orange, VA

photographs & text by Richard Robinson

All the photographs and text are copyrighted

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About the Cows:

When I first moved to Orange from Washington, D.C., I was amused by a sign on the road which simply read, "Cow Sale." Coming from the city, the sign seemed absurd. I could understand the concept of buying beef, but purchasing a whole cow brought up visions of a life which was foreign to me. The simplicity of the sign was just too much. Eventually my curiosity led me to investigate.

The resulting project has both frustrated and inspired me. To begin with, there is almost no light. In the pens, where the animals are kept, I found myself having to shoot moving objects at 1/15 of a second with my lens wide open. There was no possilbility of using flash. For a long time I wasn't sure I could get anything.

Then there was the difficulty of access. Though I got the okay from the begining, there was deep mistrust among the farmers and the workers. Nobody would talk to me. They thought I either represented the animal rights activitists or the government. At one point I was approached by a man posing as a government inspector. His objective was to see what I was up to. He told me that the farmers had guns in an attempt to try to scare me away.

Eventually, the farmers and the workers began to accept me. I overcame my fears of them and the cows as I worked my way into the animal pens. Slowly, the images started to emerge and I began to understand what to do with them. I learned how to utilize my technical difficulties.

The Cow Sale has evolved into a statement about domesticated animals. It chronicles one of the dynamics of domestication. What stands out for me is the personality of the animals. I had expected to be depicting culture of the farmers.

I had (and still do) wanted to depict the culture of the farmers. But what has emerged has been the personality of the animals. There is a dark human side to these images.

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