“In America, cattle are seen as food,” says 26-year-old Allyson Anne Lamb. “People don’t see them as anything other than burgers. But there is a lot more that goes on with animals. I wanted to create a fantasy world where cattle aren’t just food. I wanted to show a relationship between the animal and human.”
In Beefcakes, Lamb, who graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York four years ago, photographed herself naked with cattle at ranches in Texas, Maine and Maryland in the US.
“I was already making self-portraits to explore my identity as a young woman, and wanted to have the same conversation about cattle and identity,” she explains. “Cattle are much more rigidly purposed than I am – cows are used for breeding or for their milk their entire lives, for example. I wanted to show a woman physically on or next to a cow to say, ‘Look, here they are at the same time.'”
Currently based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lamb worked on the project from July to December last year. “I looked into breeds that have a good temperament and contacted a few ranches and farms,” she says. “The owners of the first place I contacted were happy for me to visit and photograph their animals, even naked.”
All the images were shot on location, and Lamb used flashes and coloured gels to light each scene. “I shot in one small town in southern Texas, where the ranch was the only thing there. People came out to watch and were puzzled as to why some girl was photographing cattle. Sometimes I wasn’t able to photograph a cow, so I shot a bull instead. The project then became more about cattle in general and what is considered beautiful.”
Mostly working alone, Lamb says that photographing the animals at close range was sometimes physically threatening. “If they had knocked me over and stepped on me, I would have been screwed,” she says. “There were a couple of scary times, but for the most part they were really sweet and didn’t want to hurt me.
“It’s not as though people have never photographed nudes or cattle before, but you don’t really see pictures of nudes lying on or with cows and bulls,” she adds. “This is my fiction.”
See more of Anne’s work here.
First published in the May 2014 issue. Want to complete your collection? Buy back issues at the BJP Shop.