Cragged, gaunt topographies bisect the deceptive landscapes by Kate Kirkwood, a British photographer whose work is deeply rooted in the countryside of the Lake District where she’s lived for the last 34 years. There, underneath the clear, blue skies or amid the haze of dense fog, Kirkwood frames what appears to be vast, barren terrains that with further examination, are revealed to be fragmented shots of the animals wandering the fields rather than the vistas themselves.
Taken during the summer months, the photos are part of her ongoing Cowspines series, a collection of images that magnify the cattle’s bony structures and soft hides lined with small tufts of hair. The shots are the result of bonding with the animals, Kirkwood tells Colossal, that involved “getting as close as they’d let me, feeling their warmth, swooning from their intense cow fragrance,” she says. “Their nuzzling and milkiness was intoxicating, and then, to notice how the sway and the curve of their spines, their hips, and shoulders, harmonised with the rocks, hills, clouds, fields, and stone walls behind them was a very exciting realisation.”
Now compiled in a volume published by Ten O’Clock Books, the images present a distorted, yet celebratory perspective of the animals and their relationship to their environment. Kirkwood elaborates in an interview:
In the same way that the backs of the living cows in my photographs become part of the landscape, so too, perhaps, in a lovely reversal, the landscape, the hills, the shapes, the weather, become living entities, their assimilation of the warm-blooded creatures in the foreground imbuing them with a similar vital force; hairy, bony, wispy, undulating life forms.