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Running with the Pack in Chester County’s Cheshire Hunt Country

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A new book, Bound to the Country, documents three decades of foxhunting tradition.

Aaron Siskind once said, “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you’ve caught on film is captured forever. It remembers little things long after you’ve forgotten everything.”

Ivan and Stephanie Dowling lead the hounds home in December 2012.

 
Some 30 years ago, I embarked on a self-assigned project in Unionville, Pa. I’d left a staff position at the News Journal in Wilmington and needed something to occupy me during my downtime—and at that point, I had a lot of downtime. I didn’t expect to be returning over and over again, but as I continued to ride with the late Mrs. Hannum, master of the hounds, I realized there was more to learn and more to see. During the season, I was a passenger in her Jeep Wagoneer three days a week for more than 15 years. She taught me so much about seeing, listening and being patient.

Over that time, I’ve become keenly aware of the efforts by so many to keep the land free from development. Mrs. Hannum’s stepfather, W. Plunket Stewart, purchased the parcel in the early 20th century. He later convinced Robert Kleberg, of the famed King Ranch in Texas, to acquire Lamot du Pont’s holding, which amounted to almost 6,000-acres. Later, the Brandywine Conservancy and George A. Weymouth facilitated easements, conserving large portions of countryside. As the late Paddy Neilson noted, “Open space is the lifeblood of fox hunting.” And the horse culture is far-reaching in southern Chester County.

It took years for me to envision what I was doing in book form as Bound to the Country. It also took time for me to convince myself that I had something worth publishing. Again and again, encouragement from friends in the photographic community spurred me on. Their constant prodding—and a few swift kicks in the trousers—sped up the process this past February.

I enlisted David Griffin, the former director of photography at National Geographic, to help with picture selection and graphic design. Bob Tursack’s Brilliant Graphics in Exton, Pa., was the right choice to print the book here in the United States. There is so much work that didn’t make the book. Much of that is included on these pages. There is boundless more—perhaps enough for another two books. And I haven’t finished shooting yet. —Jim Graham

Huntsman Ivan Dowling leads the hounds out into the field.

 

Dowling sorts hounds in the feed room.

 

Mrs. Hannum speaks with huntsman Joe Cassidy.

 

The hounds have at it.

 

Jock Hannum, chairman emeritus of the Cheshire Hunt Conservancy and one of Mrs. Hannum’s three children, rides home with grandson Jack after a day in the field.