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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Greece: On Photographing Shepherds With Their Flocks; Epirus



I have sometimes found that shepherds do not wish to be photographed with their flocks of sheep.

I discovered a possible explanation in "The Dangerous Hour" by Richard and Eva Blum (1970).

This brief  shepherd's "narrative" or anecdote appears on page 39, under the section subtitle "The Stranger" (item 43):

"Well of course one must be hospitable to strangers, but there are problems, you know. For example, when a traveller comes by while we are on the road with our flocks, that's a bad omen. One can never be sure; the sheep are so delicate, and we are afraid of the evil eye."

It should be mentioned that the authors' field work, during which the villagers' narratives were gathered, was carried out back in 1962.


Some goatherds seem delighted to be photographed!



And the delicate sheep don't seem to mind (they seem rather indifferent):



Mind you, if you were a shepherd, would you like it if a succession of random strangers or tourists
stopped their cars to take a photo of you - as a quaint and picturesque figure in a landscape?

Thomas Hardy, writing about Dorset farm-labourers and shepherds in "The Dorsetshire Labourer" (1883), made it clear that in the South West of England country people would not have wanted to be perceived as "frozen in time" in their old (or old-fashioned) working clothes "for the pleasure of romantic spectators",  however charming or picturesque to the eyes of outsiders, or whatever the artistic merit of the resulting representation.

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