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I’m trying to catch up with blogging about some of the work I have been looking at recently, unrelated to the assignment. This morning, I happened to come across a page of Lensculture which featured two photo essays on the theme of hunting. One was David Chancellor’s series Hunters, which many of us are already familiar with. The other was Agnieszka Sosnowski’s In My Backyard. On the face of it, the two are very similar. Both feature hunters with their kills – Chancellor in Africa, and Sosnowska in Iceland. Both have a similar camera viewpoint and there are technical similarities as well. The main difference is that the Icelandic images are in black and white, while the African ones are colour. And both are very beautifully posed, despite the difficult subject matter.
Despite all this, the two series are world’s apart in what they show. Chancellor’s work features rich gun-toting foreigner, who pay huge sums of money to be allowed to blast away at some of our most beautiful and endangered large mammals. This series is about the power of humans over other animals, the commodification of hunting and killing and how almost anything is possible if one has enough money. My specific interest in the series is why the subjects agreed to be photographed, and photographed in the poses they were – triumphant, sitting on their dead prey and appearing to be oblivious to the ethics of what they are doing. Are these people so divorced from the real world that they don’t see how repulsive their activities are? Chancellor has done another series called beast, which looks at the same commodification of hunting in the British context of stag hunting, which is worth a look too.
Sosnowska’s work is utterly different in tone. This series of self-portraits is is about the subjects’ relationship to the land, the creatures that inhabit it, and the light touch hunting that the subjects do for food and clothing. Hares, sheep and deer feature, and it is quite clear that these animals are being hunted in limited sustainable numbers. Alongside the reasons for hunting, there is also a sense of oneness with the land which I find very attractive, as it chimes with my own views on our relationships with the animals we use for food. I have owned a smallholding in the past, and feel very strongly that modern agriculture and food production has completely lost touch with the reality of rearing, slaughtering and butchering the animals we use for meat. If one is actually involved in the process (and I have done all three) one has a much greater respect for the beasts, a strong desire to ensure that their lives and deaths are as comfortable as possible, and an obligation to use as much of the meat and useable parts as possible. After all, they gave their lives for this.
Sosnowska’s work reminds me of elements of Carlotta Cardana’s Red Road Project, which looks at Native American Indians and their changing relationship with the land. I may wish to come back to these thought later in the course, when doing some of the Level 2 courses.