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Photography has always been a part of Sam Clark's life. Her parents Dennis and Susan Clark owned and ran a successful commercial agency for 30 years, and from an early age, Sam's natural talent with a camera, meant it was highly likely she'd be following in their footsteps.
Agricultural imagery was a large part of Dennis and Susan's workload back then, and with Sam's love for animals of all shapes and sizes – growing up in the Devon countryside with a succession of dogs, ponies, goats and poultry had made sure of that – it made sense for that to be her first project.
Never one to do things by half, Sam chose to study for an HND in Agriculture and then spent six years working in the sector, learning the trade and working directly with livestock and horses. By the time she returned to the family business, the experience and knowledge she'd equipped herself with, combined with her flair for photography, soon meant her work was in demand.
A new chapter opened up for Sam when she started exhibiting dogs in the 1980s, and began exploring the world of breed photography. On her 24th birthday she was given Sally Anne Thompson's Photographing Dogs “It was and still is my bible.” Sam says. It signalled the start of something new for Sam and she quickly became recognised as one of the UK's leading canine specialists.
When it comes to photographing dogs, Sam excels with her knowledge of breeds, and the requirements of top breeders to show off their dogs at their absolute best, and this is why Sam is commissioned by many leading European and UK breeders to produce images for their kennels. However not all the dogs are quite so willing and Sam recalls a Tibetan Mastiff in Portugal who decided enough was enough on a beach shoot, (the sand was white and was a beautiful contrast to his red coat)… ”he walked up to me, put his paws on my shoulders and knocked me backwards into the surf, taking £8000 worth of camera equipment underwater as we went, and calmly walked back to his car and went to sleep. That was the end of the photo shoot!”
It isn't just in the show arenas that Sam has made her mark though. Her passion for field sports leads her on assignments all over Europe, capturing dogs and hounds at work in their most natural element. Some of these commissions led to once-in-a-lifetime experiences (dining with Bavarian Princes) and even quite hair-raising ones (being chased by angry wild boar through a forest), but it's the unique and often unpredictable nature of on-location work that Sam relishes: “Shoots can be in some pretty inhospitable places, and sometimes it takes days of trekking to get to the hunting area, but this is part of what I love about it, and nothing pleases the owner of a hunting hound or gundog more than seeing a fabulous photo of their beloved animal pointing or carrying game.”
Sams ability to communicate with dogs, and to understand their body language and befriend even the more aloof ones, means that her natural style can be given a unique touch with dogs making eye contact with the camera. This means learning to work with each individual dog, respecting its character and using it to her advantage to produce images full of character, its something that appeals to owners and breeders, but is hard to achieve.
Sam's agricultural photography can be seen on a regular basis with her work published most months in the farming press in the UK, as well as on stock breeders websites across Europe. Despite several run-ins with camera-shy bulls, Sam still maintains that photographing cattle is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the business, and actively seeks out rare local breeds when travelling around the world.
In the last 25 years Sam has worked with many leading publishers and commercial clients around the globe, as well as for organisations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind.
She still lives in Devon, with her partner Andrew and their successful kennel of 10 dual purpose bloodhounds (Farlap Bloodhounds), a collection of pedigree poultry, lurchers and a rescued one-legged parrot. Life is rarely quiet in her household...