When man meets beast at a country show

The Dorchester Show, 2005 Image copyright Other

Take some sunshine, a splash of countryside, throw in some cattle, perhaps a rabbit or two, mix with people and you've got a country show.

And where there's a show you'll find photographers, all out to grab a memory or the next big hitter on photo site Flickr.

There is, of course, always something of interest to see and they offer the photographer a ready-made environment in which to operate. Events like these have attracted photographers of all sorts for many years, from Tony Ray Jones to Homer Sykes and many more besides.

More recently, country shows have been the hunting ground of street photographer Paul Russell whose eye for a humorous moment is as keen as any you will find.

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The shows vary in size, but some cover many acres and pitch up for a few days before disappearing once more.

Paul said he started photographing country shows in September 2004.

"I went to my first show with not a great deal of enthusiasm," he said.

"I am primarily a street photographer - someone who generally takes candid photographs of people quite close up in urban environments. However, I immediately found the shows very interesting, with a whole cast of characters that I wouldn't bump into in a more urban setting.

"Many other people are photographing at these shows, as they are obviously photogenic events, and it was a novelty for me to be able to photograph in a situation where photography is the norm."

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Paul lives in Weymouth, Dorset, and attends shows in the local area, so his shoots are limited to a few days each year. The upside of this is that there is a real incentive to make every event count.

"This limited window of opportunity keeps me on my toes - I think if I could go to one every week, I would soon get bored," he said. "Instead I have to hope for good weather and some good luck. Every year is a challenge to find something a bit different from previous shots I've taken.

"Rather than relying on a long lens, I generally try to get close to the action to make the photos seem more intimate.

"This can mean long periods of waiting for the animals and their handlers to get close to barriers. I have had a couple of close escapes involving powerful animals backstage - but that is all part of the fun.

"Famous last words?" he adds.

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It's not just humour that draws Paul to a certain moment; the pictures also capture the close bond between owner and animal.

"I am always on the lookout for shots that are a bit different to those that will make the local papers," he said. "One of the major themes of the series is the relationship between the handlers and animals - whether it be the need to control a huge, aggressive bull or the affection towards a family pet."

Here's a selection of the work so far.

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A wider selection from the series can be sampled on Paul's website.