Down To Earth
‘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.’
In Her a Sheep
'Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy sheep. This is pretty much the same thing to Alison.'
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.
A LIFE, A LOVE
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.
Beautiful In Every Way
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. Beautiful in every way, both inside and outside.
335 full-plate photographs of my best photographic achievements, illustrating the loving connection Alison has made 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. No windfalls, just graft and determination to. One of the last little hill-farms still clinging on. Experience it before it's gone.