We first discovered this work after it was submitted to the Portrait Awards 2015. Although it was not chosen as a finalist by the jury, the editors of LensCulture were impressed and decided to publish this feature article about it. Enjoy!
Around the world, rural life has almost been eclipsed by the promise of modern cities. By 2050, around 70% of people will live in urban environments. However, as these portraits attest, some shepherds and inhabitants of rural Italy hold tight to tradition. They represent the archetypal residents native to Veneto, Trento, and Friuli, symbolizing a way of life that has been passed down since ancient times, having spread across the Mediterranean, Central Asia, Africa, and the Arctic.
Pastoral Italians depicts the shepherds continuous search for grass to feed the herd, forcing them into a continuous loop of nomadism. Following a cyclical path from the mountain to the sea, and vice versa, the shepherds follow the path of four large rivers: the Piave, Livenza, Tagliamento, and Brenta.
Recent Muslim immigration to Italy has, oddly, bolstered this previously static industry. The cultural exchange between the Italians and Muslims is interesting, and often takes place through private sales. At the edge of legality (since unlicensed butchery is forbidden in Italy), these interactions speak to the ancient pre-eminence of individual trade over global politics.
However, it is the shepherd’s relationship with nature that most sparks my interest. The days pass seemingly timelessly, marked by the rhythm of births, the movements of the herd, the caring for the lambs. The rural landscape undergoes rapid and unpredictable transformations, and yet, the shepherds continue their movements, adapting to the land in whatever shape it takes.