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Sami Reindeer Herders
Reindeer Riding
Photograph by Erika Larsen
The Moment  Erika Larsen
Rest for the Weary Since 2008 Erika Larsen has been living in Norway's extreme northeast with a family of Sami reindeer herders. In addition to photographing their way of life, she works keeping house for them. This immersion, she says, helps her better understand the culture, which can be tough but is not without flashes of tenderness. That warmth is exemplified in this image of a tired young reindeer getting a lift instead of having to walk. "With the Sami herders," she says, "I've observed nature being at once beautiful and brutal." —Catherine Zuckerman

Behind the Lens

Why is this reindeer lashed to a sled?

I took this in May, when we were moving the reindeer north from Kautokeino toward the sea. It's an 80-mile trip, and this calf was struggling to keep up. So a herder placed it on a sled, tying it down to hold it secure. Then he hitched the sled to his snowmobile and pulled the reindeer along.

What about this scene do you find compelling?

This was the first time I had witnessed the practice of carrying reindeer. The herders do this so the calves don't overexert themselves and end up dying. I felt that it was important to show this side of things, this compassion. Of course the herders don't want the calf to die—it represents food and money. But they also don't want it to suffer while it's alive. The herders are not overly sensitive, but to the degree that one can care for a wild animal, they do. It's not easy to put into words. That's probably why I took a picture instead.