Slaughtering + Butchering
The following images were shot for a two-book series, Butchering: The Comprehensive Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering (Storey Publishing), both of which were written by Adam Danforth. The books are meant to be a definitive guide to humane butchering and slaughtering for those who want to purchase and process animals raised locally.
When Carolyn Eckert, the books’ art director and designer, asked me to work with her and her team, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. It was an important project, and I was honored to have been asked to contribute. I certainly had some trepidation, having no experience killing and butchering animals. However, I knew the education I would receive would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The first two days of the eight-day shoot were spent slaughtering. It was cold, cloudy, and wet—perfect conditions for what we were doing! The remaining days were spent in the studio documenting every aspect of the butchering process. They were long, exhausting days but we were buoyed by Adam’s sense of humor and professionalism. In the end, we had an intimate understanding and respect for the journey the animals make from sacrifice to food.
I realize these images may be difficult to look at. My primary goal as a photographer has always been to make images that impact the viewer with beauty. I had never before photographed a subject that had such visceral and emotional power, but I happily discovered there was a great amount of beauty inherent in the process. The following images are ones that I feel were most successful in striking a balance between aesthetics and emotion. They are honest and raw moments of a process most of us are never exposed to.
© Joseph Keller