For 8 years, Katrine Estrup, a 27-year-old photographer based in Copenhagen, documented the love life or Robert and Sussi, his sheep. Relationsheep tells the story of a nice man, and his sweet fiancée.
“I am trying to transcribe a strange – but lovely – story. The love of Robert for Sussi, his sheep”, states Katrine Estrup. The young woman studies communication and photography in a journalism school in Denmark. Though she specialises in fashion and portrait photography, she likes – above all else – to share her fictions, as shown in her project Relationsheep, started 10 years ago. Next stop, north of Jutland, a remote Danish territory. There, away from all civilisation, lives Robert, in his farm. His only friend? Suddi, the oldest sheep in Danmark – a record breaking 26-years-old! “She was no ordinary pet, she was the love of his life, and his lifelong partner. I speak in the past tense, because Sussi passed away before Robert could marry her – his dream”, says the artist, who was planning on capturing their wedding day.
As sheep lovers are not that common, Katrine Estrup distinctly remembers their first encounter. “I was also living in the north of Jutland, in a small village. And I went to the city with my camera, to write an article. There, I met Robert. He invited me to his place, to meet his animals and told me his story. He was a born storyteller, and I kept visiting him, as if I was visiting my grand-father. It lasted 8 years, and during all this time, I got to know a nice man, with a big heart”.
A nice man
There, she also discovered an unusual and intimate relationship – Robert and Sussi were linked to one another. “By listening to Robert’s voice, Sussi could tell how he was feeling. She could sometimes become aggressive, and Robert knew how to calm her down, and make her happy again” – with liquorice, especially. On a summer’s day, as she was visiting the couple, Katrine Estrup witnessed a loving moment. “We were talking about Robert’s childhood. He was remembering how strict his father was. As he was reliving these moments where he did not feel accepted, he cried. So much so that he got a nosebleed. At this moment, Sussi came and put her head on her pained companion’s thigh. A symbolic moment”, recalls the photographer, who herself does not own any pet.
“Yet I still have a good relationship with animals. I think they are a gift to men. They are the perfect friend to love, to care for, especially for those who have trouble opening up”, she adds. She made a point at highlighting, during the whole project who Robert truly was: a nice man. But a man suffering after the death of his love. A year ago, as she went back to his place, she discovered that he had left, and that a homeless man have moved in. “I haven’t spoken to him since, but I will try to find him next summer”, the photographer says. “Reacting to my images, many saw him as a monster, but as soon as I shared my story, they changed their mind. We all have a past that has shaped who we are now. Some people are especially unique, but they still deserve to be listened to and noticed – which we often forget to do”. “Clothes do not always make a man”. We can hardly refute George Sand’s saying (Flaminio, Theatre, 1854) after contemplating Katrine Estrup’s work. A sociological project proving that love is never conventional.
© Katrine Estrup