Sheep, Chicks and Geese Scurry at the County Fair- page 11 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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(Maura McCarthy)

Sheep, Chicks and Geese Scurry at the County Fair

As photographer Dan Nelken has catalogued, the county fair is the place for family farms to showcase their prized livestock

Dan-Nelken-county-fairs-14

Schoharie County Sunshine Fair 2003
(Maura McCarthy)

Much like how young farmers would nurture and raise a calf or a chick without truly knowing the animal’s championship potential until maturation, Nelken often found that he couldn’t judge his shots until he developed them into photographs.

Nelken would see sheep arriving at the fairgrounds with thick coats of wool and then watch people shearing and clipping the animals by hand to prepare them for competition.

A case in point was when, at the 2003 Schoharie County Fair, he found the Goblet boys shearing their ewe and photographed her from both sides, shorn and unshorn. But he thought the background was too busy and asked the boys to let him photograph the sheep the following year.

“We moved the sheep in front of a barn so that the background would be dark. I took three rolls of film as a whole process,” says Nelken. “And it just wasn’t as effective, it wasn’t as good. You think you can improve up on it, and it’s something totally different.”

So he stuck with the 2003 photo.

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