Sheep Portrait
Near Wick, Scotland
36x45 inch C-print

The sheep in the Scottish Highlands have a lot of agency.  They seem to roam freely everywhere (we saw one slip through a tiny gap in the fence when it wanted to go from the open road back to an enclosure), and they often travel in small groups on the moors.  The large flock in this photograph was on a thin ribbon of road in the far northeastern Highlands near the North Sea.  It was the beautiful crepuscular time of day, and the symphony of shell-like winter colors — of sheep, snow, and sky — was what initially stopped me in my tracks.  What necessitated my grabbing my camera, though, was the self-possession of the central sheep.  I was astonished by its unwavering gaze, which lasted all the way from my frantically bringing out and setting up large pieces of equipment, through focusing the camera, which involved flinging a large dark cloth around, to finally exposing two sheets of film for a few minutes each, before it turned and left the frame. 

Perhaps it was the comfort level of a familiar space and being surrounded by so many of its peers that caused the central sheep to be so curious and also so unafraid. However, it was the only one of its kind to exhibit that sort of engagement, making it seem inherent to that particular sheep.  In general the small groups of sheep we would happen across out on the open fields made a point of absenting the scene after the most cursory examination of us, and, as a consequence, I have more "the picture that got away" stories of sheep than I care to remember.  In one particularly disappointing case, I had set up a camera on a flock of sheep at night, and when I came back to stop that particular exposure 30 minutes later, there was not one sheep anywhere in sight. One's subjects wandering out of frame can be a real problem in documentary long-exposure shooting!