The life of a shepherd is one ruled by the changing seasons, the fruits of the land and, increasingly, one that is at the mercy of a rapidly changing culture and global economy. In a small Slovenian settlement in the foothills of the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, Velika Planina (Great Mountain), a community of shepherds continue a traditional way of life that has existed for more than 500 years – moving during the summer months from the valley to the mountains for food for their cattle. As modernization reaches ever more remote areas, local cultures and communities begin to fracture, and fall away.
When Slovenian photographer Jošt Franko (b. 1993) began to photograph the shepherds in 2010, he was only 17, but still he recognized the fragility of the way of life. “In the current economical situation, most shepherds cannot survive only on farming,” he explains, “so they do their jobs in the valley during weekdays.” This has meant that the settlement is mostly occupied by older family members and their grandchildren, who come to spend their summer vacations helping. The population itself is limited: only around twenty families move to the mountains during the summer currently, and over the four years that Franko photographed the shepherds, three more families stopped.