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A Basotho pony is struggling up a cliff, burdened by jerry cans that have been filled up at a spring. Behind the animal, far below and out of reach, lies the fat gleam of Katse Dam. This is the memory that sears through me when I recall my visit to Lesotho in July 2016. I travelled there with photographer Dave Southwood, who has been visiting the mountainous kingdom frequently over the past two years. Initially, he came to make portraits of the balaclava-clad shepherds who mind their flocks on the steep slopes above the dam. It was a way of exploring how, in portraiture, a blank mask complicates "the act of seeing and being seen", he says, triggering "questions about the viewer’s projections and the subjects’ power". But, as he worked, the backdrop intruded. Ever-present and preternaturally still, the dam’s "ridiculous, unnatural vertices" and "dense and depthless magnetism" captivated him. Southwood wanted to dive deeper into the socioeconomic and cultural ramifications of Katse’s ...

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