It is a story about sheeps, horses and men. In Iceland, sheeps are set free at the beginning of the spring. Usually they walk around avoiding men, as they are becoming wild again.
In autumn, the first snow sends the signal for bringing sheeps back. In the wilderness of Iceland and especially in the mountains, they would not survive during the winter time. On a September day, the farmers and their friends will meet for the yearly roundup.
But bringing sheeps toghether is not an easy thing. The stockmen will have to climb steep mountains and run after each sheep, an exhausting work. Occasionally, they will be helped by dogs and horses.
Ragnar Axelsson (known as Rax in Iceland) brings us closer to that people. During twenty five years, he has been walking and riding with farmers and friends for the yearly roundup. This part of Iceland called Fjallabak, is probably the most beautiful and impressive landscape of the country. Is is remote and wild.
The first pictures are showing some aerial shots from these colourful mountains of Landmannaafrettur, situating the action.
In the second part, Rax is switching to black and white, his signature. The pictures are very strong, filled by the immensity of the landscape and the wilderness of the mountains. They show sheeps, horses, dogs, mountains and exhausted stockmen. Rax is never as good as when he is photographing people. You enter in their lives, you walk with them, you are exhausted with them, you can even feel what they think. Walking in these mountains is not an easy thing. It is very steep, the wind as always is blowing and more than often, the rain or the snow is falling.
RAX has been working on films with a Leica. Later, he switched to a Mamiya 7 and as it was probably to easy for him, he decided to use a 6x12cm Linhof camera. It tells you a lot about the man. Riding on a horse, using a large format camera and lens, and shooting in the rain, may be the price to pay to make such a beautiful book. All the pictures are great! Subject, contrast, composition, every thing is perfect. Beautifully printed in Italy by EBS, on a beautiful paper, with a nice lay-out. If you like photography, it is a must to have this book.
By the way, there are two other books by Rax, both very strong, “Faces of the North” and “The last days of the Arctic”. You should have a look at them too.