I first came across photographer Guy Carpenter when he generously sent us some of his images from the Masham Sheep Fair which I help to organise. Over the years I've seen thousands of pictures of sheep, but very few really convey the tenderness of a farmer preparing and showing their sheep, the nervous excitement of a young handler, or the quiet satisfaction of one of the show volunteers when they find the right sheep in the right pen or get a chance to finally sit down. Guy's image did all this and more.
When Guy Carpenter first told me he was planning to take photos of a range of different people living in the Dales, I thought it was an excellent idea to show what life here is really like. Sometimes when you drive through the Yorkshire Dales, it looks like very few people live here. Lives go on behind the walls of barns, farmhouses and businesses, and most of the time they're invisible to other residents and visitors. Everyone can appreciate the beauty of the landscape but it's hard to really know what life is like.
Guy's now finished his project, spanning the best part of a year, travelling around the Dales photographing and interviewing people, and putting them together into his book, Dalesfolk. I expected to see farmers, maybe shopkeepers, perhaps some people who work in tourism or food businesses. The sheer depth and breadth of the people he's covered surprised me - it's intriguing, enriching and up-lifting. I expected Guy's images to tell many stories, some workmanlike like the livestock auctioneer, others more emotional like Katie Willkomm a survivor of one of Stalin's forced labour camp. There were many other surprises though, from the smiling face of a vet, arm deep in a cow's backside, to the tension of the mountain rescuers, and pride of the Kettlewell clock tower keeper.
There's enough life in Guy's images of the people of the Dales to tell their own story, but he's added well-written interviews with each one, giving more depth and interest. I can't think of another way for anyone, resident or visitor to get such a good insight into so many different lives, lifestyles, stories, frustrations and pleasures as by reading and studying Dalesfolk. Perhaps fittingly, only a limited number of copies have been printed so do anything you can to get your hands on one: this is a rare record of the Yorkshire Dales' richness and diversity, exactly as it is, right now. I'm aware this sounds 'gushing' but it feels like this is the modern day equivalent to Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby's record of life in the Dales, which is a very special thing.