The photography of Kate Hassett is featured through the end of the month in the café gallery of Good Tern Natural Foods Co-Op, 750 Main St.

Hassett became interested in photography when she took a black and white photo class with Ken Martin while a student at Medomak Valley High School in Waldoboro. She discovered digital when her high school humanities teacher and mentor, Chuck Boothby, let her borrow his digital SLR camera. In college, she took only one photography class while she explored other media, but she still carried her camera everywhere.

Most recently, Hassett did a semester at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland where she spent three months photographing Joe Miller, a homeless man bound to a wheelchair with a place on the sex offender registry, a tendency to dress in women’s clothing and a long history of mental illness. During this time, she also did a shorter documentary on the short-nosed sturgeon population in the Penobscot River.

The Good Tern show, “Cow-Themed Catharsis,” is about her first love, way before she knew what a camera was. Hassett has loved cows since she was 2 years old. Growing up next door to a retired dairy farmer in Somerville, she spent hours roaming the fields with the cows that the farmer boarded for other dairymen. Her old neighbor’s name is Don Hewett, but she called him Tractor. No matter how many times her parents said it was rude, the name made sense to young Hassett because it seemed he spent most of his time riding old John Deere tractors. The name has stuck. Tractor is now 87 years old, and they are still close friends.

The cows in these photos belonged to another dairy farming friend of Hassett’s, Wayne Cunningham. She has worked off and on for Cunningham milking cows and sometimes haying, since she was in eight grade. Hassett bought her first pet cow from him while in sixth grade and two years later resold it to him.

The cows pictured in this series are from Cunningham’s most recent herd, which was sold in the summer of 2009 due to the economic situation and a very poor haying season. More than 80 of them were sent to slaughter in Pennsylvania with funding coming from a dairy farming cooperative called Cooperatives Working Together. Having been personally attached and connected to these cows, Hassett found this financing of mass slaughter traumatizing. Her hope is that the photos convey her love for these creatures as well as the intelligence that she believes they possess as a species.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to dernest@villagesoup.com.