In a modern world, where superlatives are often meaningless, few are truly worthy of the title 'legend.'

However, in the global world of cattle breeding photography, one name stands head and shoulders above all others – Patty Jones.

Legend definition: “An extremely famous person especially in a particular field.”

One of Patty's favourite photographs, Franken Monarch Rosel ExOne of Patty's favourite photographs, Franken Monarch Rosel Ex

There are few names that resonate across the decades whose influence has changed perceptions; changed ideology, broadened horizons and inspired generations. Those hallowed singular names include Roy (Roybrook) Pete (Hanoverhill) and from the UK 'Moff' (Hunday) and added to that list of industry luminaries is the singular name – 'Patty.

Patty Jones helped change not just the perception; but also the way dairy cattle were promoted and marketed, and not just in Canada, but on a global-basis. And all that happened, from behind the camera – not in front.

Aiming and achieving bovine perfection, created another marketing dynamic – the emergence of 'brand Patty.' So how did it all start?

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I grew up in the Eastern Townships area of Quebec and was involved in 4H competitions, showing calves at events and therefore had a close affinity with farming and cattle. I went to college to learn photography and got the opportunity to work with photographer and mentor Bob Miller (Roxy fame) in the Woodstock area of Ontario.

Bob eventually moved from Canada to the US and created the Mil-R-Mor herd with many descendants being developed from the legendary 'The Queen of The Breed' Glenridge Citation Roxy Ex97.

I also worked with another great photographic mentor, Jim Rose. Eventually, as my business continued to develop, I was able to purchase the negatives from Bob and Jim’s photographic library due to their retirement.

Another favourite Calbrett Kingboy Miranda P Ex93Another favourite Calbrett Kingboy Miranda P Ex93

I went into business with Helen O’Donnell under the trading name of an Incorporated company, known as Canadian Livestock Photography Inc. When you are constantly travelling on the road, especially in those days, you needed someone to run the business; get the photos processed and mail-out to customers and send out the invoices. Unlike today, there wasn’t any emailing of invoices; digital-photography or sending electronic copies of photos.”

As your business and reputation developed you were in great demand by Canadian registered breeders and artificial insemination units to help promote and market their genetics in the 1970s onwards. What was the business like in those days?

It was tough back then and I’ve been in business for 51 years – (I started at the age of five, at least that’s what I tell everyone) I was in business with Helen O’Donnell for about 25 years and when I started out, we charged $12.50c (£7.50) for a photo and customers got two prints. It wasn’t a lot of money but everything was relative back then price-wise. Today, a set-up can be $150 -$180 (£110).

Back then, photo-shoots were done outdoors with a natural scenic background; and then we started doing indoor set-ups under powerful lighting systems with a landscape screen background. Today, with digital photography, you can just go to the end of the barn and set-up the cow and take the photo and with photo-editing, cut and place her on any kind of digital landscape background. We can do this all winter, no matter the weather – and the cow can now be photographed when she is at the ‘right-stage’ of her lactation and looking her best.

Do you have any particular memories of any photo-shoots – for whatever reason?

Well, there are a lot of photo-shoots and I’ve done over 70,000 photo set-ups – so quite a lot. Perhaps the one that sticks in my mind was for Dave Houke at Romandale Farms. We had one cow that would not ‘settle’ and took three-hours until I got the photo. The leadsman’s arms were aching holding the cow for that long – we rotated and went through five different leadsmen on the halter. And we had to photograph another five cows – so a long day.

What’s the most important aspect to get the right photo you are aiming to capture?

Obviously, patience plays a big part. And you have to have a good team of people that know what to do. In the past, we would need maybe five or six people to set-up the cow; set her front-legs, set her back legs, loin and tail and so on. Today, its probably easier due to digital photography where the cow is in the barn in familiar surroundings and not outside with potential distractions.

You have to be ready to take that shot. You may only have one or two seconds; when an animal pulls into themselves and stretches-out. It’s that one split-second that captures a moment in time. After that; it’s gone. That’s the image that stays permanently in the mind of breeders and owners, worldwide. That’s the photo in a magazine advert, sale brochure or on the website.

Its that one split-second that captures a moment in time.

We first met in 1987 at the Hanoverhill Sale, Port Perry, Ontario, in what I consider to be the halcyon era of cattle-breeding and marketing. Over the years, my articles featured and were built-up around images you had taken depicting milking cows; heifers and calves at their finest. Do you feel pride in what you achieved?

There is always satisfaction and pride in what I do. I want to do the best for my customers. My customers also become my friends. But customers, breeders, farmers, have to make money from marketing whether selling semen, embryos or cattle. It has to work for them. One great photo can generate thousands of extra dollars at auction or sell thousands of units of bull semen.

You’ve not just taken cow photos but also photos of bulls. Does any particular bull photo stick out in your mind?”

There were a lot of bulls that were outstanding individuals. We would also have the opportunity to photograph bulls as they matured into tremendous individuals; often after six-years old, following their lay-off period when the bull was progeny-proven. A bull could be eight or 10 years old – and incredible specimens. I guess the bull that springs to mind is Hanoverhill Inspiration and another, Gillette Windbrook.

A Patty Jones photo had to be ‘Patty Jones’ quality. Which cow photo – for whatever reason – sticks out in your mind?

That’s a tough question. I guess the one image I consider as a ‘portrait’ photo, it would have to be Calbrett Kingboy Miranda Ex93. The photo just speaks for itself. On a personal-basis, because I was involved in her ownership at one stage, as a ‘creative’ photo, which can be difficult to take, it would be Franken Monarch Rosel Ex.

Fifty years on, you are recognised as a legend; global icon, a trailblazer for women in the industry, a photographic mentor to the likes of Canadian photographers Vicki Fletcher and Ella Wright as well as, the UK’s Sheila Metcalf. You have also received Canada’s greatest accolade by being inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame. What’s next?

I’m still kept busy and do photography for some clients. I’ve been fortunate that photography found me – it has been my vocation. I’ve started doing animal sculptures and have received several commissions – and I’m developing this aspect. Sculpture goes hand-in-hand with photography and offers another artistic side to the business.