‘The collie was trying to herd the lamb – but failing’: Mark Aitken’s best phone picture

For the last two years, Mark Aitken has been working on a photo series in Lapland. “It’s called Presence of Absence,” he says, “and it explores the liminal and sometimes uncanny boundaries between life and death experienced by people living in this extreme climate and landscape.”

Aitken, who was born in New Zealand, raised in South Africa and has lived in London for years, took this photo in spring of this year, on a sheep farm. “Kukkola is a borderland hamlet in Finnish Lapland on the River Tornio, near Sweden. The farm has been running for 20 years and this lamb is one of about 100 born in March and April,” he says.

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The young lamb doesn’t have a name, but the curious collie does. “He’s a lively young male called Possu; his name means piglet. I had gone into the barn to find one of the farm’s owners, Jaana, to arrange a time for taking her portrait when I came across the two animals interacting.”

Aitken usually works with 35mm film; he likes to spend time preparing the making of a photo, especially when the subject is people. “When the right atmosphere, light and mood is realised, I press the shutter. I like the discipline of this. This process extends to printmaking in the darkroom. Only then does the memory of the moment connect with the photo.”

That day, he didn’t have his camera to hand but he did have his iPhone SE. There, in front of him, the theme of his series was reflected in an entirely new way. “I felt a sense of wonder and curiosity about interspecies relationships. Possu was trying to herd the lamb, but failing. The lamb had yet to learn fear.”

The Guardian

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