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Rising Stars: Meet Kim Carr

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Carr.

Hi Kim, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I started out as a city girl who decided at the age of ten that I would become a farmer after spending the summer with my grandparents. I have had my small farm of twenty acres for thirty-three years now. After having several jobs trying to find my niche, I was let go from what I thought was a dream job…paid me for my degree, vacation pay, health care, 401K… but it was a soul sucker. I never would of left, so it was a blessing in disguise when I was let go. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it gave me the opportunity to live my life in pursuit of happiness and fulfillment instead of for a paycheck.

Not knowing what direction to go, I picked up my camera, which had always been a fondness for me. I didn’t have the money to travel, plus I had a farm and animals to care for. So, I started taking pictures of my very own animals… my cows, my chickens, my donkeys. I started out by selling my images on note cards out of the back of my pick-up truck at the local farmers’ market. Slowly this grew into the business I have today.

Currently, I am working on a photo project in which I am visiting Missouri farmers who have heritage breeds, old-fashioned breeds of livestock and poultry. Many of these species are in danger of extinction. It is my passion to help raise awareness for these endangered animals through my photography. I still have much to learn and to do, but I am finally in my happy place.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As a photographer/artist, the two biggest challenges have been learning everything from the ground up. My degree is in animal science, and the majority of my jobs have been with animals, in retail, or in delivery. In a regular job, you have specific responsibilities. You have people above you, people below you… as an artist, you are responsible for all the jobs from creation, marketing, sales, inventory, networking, customer contact record keeping, bookkeeping, and so on. While it has been very educational, many of these are not my strong suite, so growth has been slower than I would hope.

When I first started out as a photographer, I doubted myself. So many of the photographers that I saw got to travel to beautiful states and exotic countries to capture their images. It took me a minute to realize I had everything I needed right in my own backyard. After I came to accept that there was plenty for me to photograph right here at home and right here in Missouri, I eased up on myself and began to appreciate all that I had and that I had a greater connection with my subject matter because I lived with many of them or came to know the folks (small farmers) that did.

The other big obstacle has been money. It is so true, It takes money to make money. With not having savings or other money to rely on, the building of my business has been mainly by word of mouth and building strong relations with my customers.

Covid was also a big hit. I had been building myself up as a photographer the last twelve years now. My biggest success has come from doing art shows. I finally felt that I was hitting my groove and that 2020 would be my breakthrough year. I had established myself as a photographer that had a story to tell and images that were more than just a picture. I had high hopes that I had climbed the hill, so to speak, that I had put in the work, the time, the commitment and that 2020 was going to be my year to fly. Unfortunately we know how 2020 had other plans for everyone. I am very fortunate, I am healthy, and with living on a farm, it was easy to isolate. I also had my work in some local galleries, which of course, had their struggles, and many suffered as did individual artists. I was fortunate to have already established a website and social media outlets. Many artists struggled to get these up and going when the art shows shut down.

While I had some things in play which allowed me to keep making sales and keep my artwork out in front of an audience, nothing compares to an actual art show. Getting to talk to your customers one on one, it’s hard to replace that experience. When someone sees my work, they may just see a picture of a cow. To them, a cow is a cow. They don’t realize that this particular breed of cow is in danger of extinction. They don’t realize that I know the name of that cow, can tell you the details about that breed, where I took the picture, the name of the farmer, what drives that farmer to raise this particular species, how endangered this breed is, where did they originate… so on and so on. Talking with folks face to face that are drawn to my photography allows me to tell my story, which adds value to the work that I do.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a mid-Missouri photographer. I live on a small working farm and started out by taking pictures of the animals in my own backyard. While I started out with all sorts of rural images from farm animals, wildflowers, old buildings and barns, I have honed in on heritage breed farm animals. I am currently working on visiting small Missouri farmers who have heritage breeds or old-fashioned breeds of livestock and poultry.

Most folks are aware that we have exotic animals that are endangered… tigers, rhinos, pandas, and such, however very few people realize that we also have domestic farm animals that are in danger of extinction. Animals such as the American Milking Devon (cow), Poitou donkeys, Arapawa goats, Meishan pigs, Hog Island sheep, and Caspian horses are all breeds of farm animals that are CRITCIALLY ENDANGERD. It is my goal to help change this by raising awareness through my photography. I am in the process of gathering images and stories to publish a book to help aid in getting the word out.

Thankfully we have organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) which raises money to help prevent the extinction of wildlife, however, they do not work to prevent the extinction of domestic farm animals. This is where the Livestock Conservancy comes in. They raise money through membership (which I am a member of), fundraisers and donations. They use this money to fund their programs to help prevent the extinction of livestock and poultry through education, grants for small farmers, and other programs. They also track the yearly number of births of purebred heritage breeds and rank their status from Critical, Threatened, Watch, and Recovering. I’m very excited that some breeds have graduated from the endangered list since I started my photo project, such as the Scottish Highland (cow).

I am most proud of the fact that I am making a difference. I am helping to raise awareness and educate folks through my photography. Not only does my photography provide beauty, it also helps educate. It is not just a picture of a cow or a duck. The thing that sets me apart from other photographers, I don’t do what I call a “drive-by shooting”. I don’t stop along a gravel road and just take pictures of a pretty cow or horse out in a field. I have called that farmer, knocked on their door and stood with them in the pigpen, out in their corrals, and out in their fields. We have had conversations about what they do, why they do it, and what it means to them to have a rare breed of livestock or poultry. These are small farmers who have a passion for what they do; it is in their blood. I learn things about the animals, their names, personalities, and I get to look them in the eye while they get to know that I mean them no harm. I get to know the animals I photograph one on one. I know them for more than what a normal photo can tell. I have the ability to connect the viewer in a much deeper level.

Each image I capture comes with a little card that provides the animal’s name, the farm where I took the photo, the farmer’s name, breed, country of origin, endangered status and other little tidbits that lets the collector know that this image is indeed more than just a photo of a farm animal.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, be present, and be humble. I was fortunate to learn about a state-wide art organization, Best of Missouri Hands when, I was first getting started. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of folks that willing to help others. Willingness to listen but tweak as I needed was a major plus.

Early on I attended a workshop. The presenter made the comment about trying new things. He made a comment, how do you know you can’t if you don’t try. So I have followed that mantra in my business. It has caused me to go beyond what I thought I could do. The other big thing, never be afraid to promote and talk kindly of other artists. It is often easier to share the works of another than yourself. It helped me to build confidence in myself, let me hone my marketing skills, and establish good relations with other like-minded creative folks.

Another thing that has been a huge plus for me and expanded my networking abilities is volunteering my time. I have learned so much this way and have gotten insight that I couldn’t pay for. It has been invaluable on so many levels and introduced me to folks that I might never have met. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for those who often work behind the scenes and feel that I am a more rounded artist because of it.

Never be afraid to reach out to others, and never be afraid to lend a hand to those who wish to learn. Bottom line, you’ve got to put the work in. Others can guide you and encourage you, but only you can do the work. If it is something that is important to you, then you will away.

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3 Comments

  1. Neshama Roash

    August 18, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    I love your mission and the adorable, personality-filled images of these sweet beings!

    • Kim R Carr

      August 27, 2021 at 10:35 pm

      Thank you Neshama. It has been my pleasure and joy to work on this project. I have learned so much and know I am making a difference through my photography.

  2. Shirley Crowell

    August 27, 2021 at 11:57 pm

    A great article in telling your story & the story of animals in need of help! Congratulations!!!

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