One Woman Farm

Ian Lawson - shepherdess Book

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A tough and tender portrait of a ‘true-to-life’, born and bred shepherdess.

Shepherdess (n.) A woman who tends sheep; hence, a rural lass.

In a special corner of the Yorkshire Dales, there is deep gratitude and spiritual fulfilment to be found in the essential work of a Shepherdess. Documented in heartfelt photographs and personal words, this new work portrays the growing intimacy between a woman, her flock and her love affair with life on a small hill farm, and the intractable realities of this traditional existence.



MaterialHardcover - Silk bindings. Foil-stamped

PresentationCustom slipcase with suede lining. Gift-boxed.

TextEnglish 25,000 words

Weight5 kilos / 11lbs

Photographs335 Full-plate colour photographs

Size35cm x 29cm x 5.5cm

PaperGuardapat heavy-weight matt art

Origin of ProductionPrint & Bindery. Verona, Italy

‘The moment I drove into the farmyard at Shackla Bank I knew I had discovered something special. A place, where time appeared to have stood still. I gazed in disbelief at the pastoral scene of old, nestled under the green miles of towering fells. It reminded me of an episode of All Creatures Great And Small, and for a moment I felt like James Herriot, but with photography rather than veterinary work on my mind.’

Ian Lawson - Fell Farm

Fell Farm Howgill Fells

The world around Shackla Bank Farm is one I now know very well; every wall, gate and vista, each field and fold becoming an old friend. I am slowly getting to know the wider world of the Yorkshire Dales, growing a patient familiarity with their fells whilst hidden valleys and other glories await my discovery. With camera in hand, a considered exploration of this beautiful National Park will take more time, but for now I am content to be in this special place within the Howgill Fells. It remains my most rewarding focus.

The word shepherdess is a most intriguing one. An ancient occupation, interwoven with humanity's need for wool and provisions, it speaks of a rare way of life, one which gathers, tends and cares for livestock in a world which so often defines living creatures solely through commerce.

An embodiment of all this can be found in Alison O’Neill, a ‘true-to-life’ shepherdess caring for her sheep as the seasons turn. Hers is a sometimes cruel and challenging existence but one which, despite the many hardships, rewards immensely and gives back in abundance.

For the last eight years I have kept a picture diary of Alison’s world, simple everyday observations of her inner and outer self as her days unfold. An easy life isn’t worth photographing and although this body of work has taken time, it is redeemed by the provision of a wealth of pictures and inspiration, enough to last a lifetime.

Ian Lawson - Alison O'Neill
Ian Lawson - Down to Earth

Dales Born and Bred

A parallel existence lies in these parts, a rural community still holding on, where fame, money-making and celebrity seem of little consequence. It is a place where continuity of culture, traditional values and heritage hold sway.

In many ways her life seems like a fairy tale, but as is often the way with myths and stories, darker days nip at the edges of this rosy view. The loveliness and romance of such a remote and rural idyll was initially a beacon to me but it was soon clear this light was often overshadowed by the hardships and realities of a shepherdess’s work in the upland Dales.

Yet through it all, Alison’s natural disposition shines, with her power of wholehearted enjoyment in things large and small, as she pours heart and soul into her humble place in the world. Such is her delight in the open-air shepherding life, she inspired in me a relentless, fine optimism throughout the making of this book.

Shepherdess is a celebration of many things, but most of all that of a remarkable woman who has nurtured a self-created way of life whilst striving to cope as she clings on to her hill-farming heritage, a rare thing too precious to let go without a fight.

This then is a portrait of the life Alison O’Neill has chosen and, perhaps more so, the one which has chosen her.

Ian Lawson - Alison O'Neill
Ian Lawson - Shepherdess Stand

‘Beautiful in every way - Outside & Inside’

Using the very finest eco-friendly matt art paper, milled by the shores of Lake Garda. Printed in Verona and finished by the world’s premier book bindery in Vicenza. All together a master class in Italian craftsmanship.

Ian Lawson - Shepherdess Book

335 full-plate photographs of my best achievements, illustrating the loving connection Alison has with her landscape and work. A flock of woolled sheep. A small tenanted hill-farm perched high in the Yorkshire Dales. A Shepherdess having to make it pay the hard way. We are blessed. This is the real thing. Experience it before it's gone.

Shepherdess book, suede-lined slipcase and gift box.

£155.00 plus shipping

Ian Lawson - Shepherdess Book
Price Promise

First, making my photographs and secondly, creating all that goes into my opus books – design, artwork, writing, editorial, proofing, printing and the binding are all very expensive, both emotionally and financially.

I’ve only ever followed my ambition to make the most beautifully created self-published books I could imagine up. Each and every copy made by my Italian printers is a proud achievement and it is only with your kind support that I am able to continue my quest.

So, such is the love and care embodied in my work, Shepherdess will never be found discounted at any time. Your investment will never be de-valued.


Ian Lawson