Every November a small group of Spanish semi-nomadic shepherds from Teruel set off on a 3-week long journey and walk a flock of 5,000 sheep across 250-miles of Spanish landscapes. They leave behind the exhausted summer pastures of their native Serrania de Albarracin and head for greener, winter hillsides in Jaen, Andalucia.
They are the ‘trashumantes’, the very last ones who still practise a 1000-year-old tradition on such a large scale.
I recently accompanied them for the whole duration of their seasonal migration. This project took three years from inception of the idea to realisation. A series of sheep epidemics and the subsequent government ban of nation-wide movements of animals almost finished off the already precarious lifestyle of the trashumantes.
During the journey I felt the pervading sense of camaraderie amongst them and witnessed how the activity completely defines who they are. They are trashumantes and could not, would not, be otherwise. Sadly, they’re often seen as an anachronism in our technology-driven society. However, for the trashumantes the journey is not an exercise in nostalgia but a cost-efficient, environmentally-friendly alternative to road transport: they save money by walking the sheep instead of taking them in lorries. So the activity is unquestionably rooted in a modern market economy.
I don’t know how long they will keep doing it, but I hope that the young shepherds who came with us eventually take over the responsibility from the core of mature trashumantes who drove the expedition. It would be a great loss if the drovers’ tracks eventually faded in the landscape because no trashumantes walk them anymore.
I was born in Spain and moved to the UK in 1996 with the idea of pursuing a career in professional photography. In 2004 I successfully finished an MA in Documentary Photography at the University of Wales, Newport. My current professional practice covers social (weddings & community development programmes), commercial (stage photography), travel (stock & editorial) and documentary photography. My photographs are held by AGE Fotostock and Alamy; I have also worked on assignments for Visit Britain. My photographic projects include features on Egypt’s Western Desert, Mali’s Sahel, India’s Thar Desert, and the High Atlas mountains. I have worked on a project covering a year in the life of crofters in North Uist, in the Hebrides. Recently, I accompanied a group of Spanish semi-nomadic shepherds on their annual migration. During their 3-week journey they walked a flock of 5,000 sheep across 250 miles, from depleted summer pastures in the north to greener hillsides in Andalucía. This project has been shortlisted for the 2008 BJP/Nikon Project Assistance Awards.
I am also a photography tutor at the Open College of the Arts (OCA) and CityLit College in London. As an extension of my photographic practice I am a keen traveller and outdoors person. I have trekked and cycled in rugged areas such as the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Pyrenees, Alaska and Iceland. I was expedition photographer on Raleigh International’s 4-month expedition to Guyana. I am a keen cyclist and have gone on award-winning cycling expeditions to the Andes (Wilderness Award) and Mali (Millennium Commission On the Line Award 2001). When I’m not holding a camera or teaching how to use it, I volunteer for Sustrans, the UK sustainable transport charity, and run bicycle repair workshops for the cycling charity Life Cycle UK.
More pictures and further details can be found at www.pangeafoto.com
What’s in the bag?
I have now stopped using film completely. The problem is that in this digital era whatever is in my bag is not there for very long. At the moment I’m using Fuji S3 and S5 Pro cameras with Sigma 17-35mm f2.8-4 HSM DG EX & Nikon 35mm f2 AF lenses for my documentary work. My commercial work is done with two Nikon D2X cameras and Sigma 30mm f1.4 DG & 18-50mm f2.8 DG EX lenses.