Right out my front door! The sheep often come by, bells jingling, dogs herding, and the shepherd, a strong, silent presence who merely needs to move his shoulders, or body, a certain way and all the sheep move where the silent message sends them. Sometimes it’s a whistle, or a precise grunt on his part, and the sheep come to a standstill.
Magical. Like the stuff of fables. But to see it still alive in our world today is to connect immediately to what the past must have been like, with flocks of sheep moving over the fields everywhere, and shepherds, their silent guardians, living on the land with them as a large integrated unit.
The year before, when I encountered him way out in the fields, I made a portrait of him, and when he passed by today I brought it out for him. He looked at it, and I believe he couldn’t quite believe it was him, so unused to a mirror is he.
Wolves in Tuscany?
Yes! We had heard bleating and strange noises coming from the sheep pen up the road. Unusual for middle of the day when the sheep are often lying about or huddled under a tree in the shade. Maggie went up the hill to see what was the matter. A wolf had gotten into the fenced in enclosure and killed two pregnant mothers. I raced up to the pen to see for myself.
There are no words that can make it become something other than what it is. And a photograph is simpler still; no tricks of the light, no angle that dramatizes it to make it more horrific or sad, just the plain fact of what a slaughtered animal looks like in the moment after its death. Sometimes just bearing witness is enough.
I never was one to photograph wars, or the depths of poverty, because I couldn’t stand the idea of making esthetic decisions about framing when dealing with such enormous human events. It was different when I went into Ground Zero for 9 months, that was all Aftermath, and as such it needed the record to be made for posterity, but to witness slaughter and disease and human wreckage and while doing it make something beautifully framed seems beyond my capacity.