The Making of Trophy
I rate my mechanical workshop. The service there is friendly, efficient, and they seem to know what there are talking about. But I don’t use them because of the quality of the magazines in the waiting room. This is how I came to be reading New Zealand Hunting and Shooting; a title that I would have otherwise avoided. But then I found myself getting interested. Not being a natural born killer myself, I was curious as to the appeal. Why do people do this? I also learnt that there was to be a competition the next weekend in Oamaru so decided to take my newly serviced car and camera there to explore the topic further.
Here is some of what I found:
Carnage. Bodies everywhere.
A lot of those bodies belonged to hunters and I got talking to a number of them. Of course, there is something very atavistic about it all and it became clear to me over the course of the following two years while I shot this project, that many are simply motivated by the desire to go into the bush and bring back meat for their family. Which strikes me as almost noble. After all, it is probably fair to say that we wouldn’t be here today if our ancestors weren’t good at this sort of thing. But motivations vary; I also met those who were passionate about living off the land as a means of getting closer to nature while for others it seemed to be more about challenging and extending themselves. Matehood, camaraderie and beer also have a lot to do with it.
One other thing became clear; hunters aren’t particularly image conscious. The downside of that was my refusal rate was higher than I would have liked. Some groups you approach recognise the need and legitimacy of social documentary photography. Others, less so. But just as you don’t catch any game without a gun in your hand, so it is with photography. I just had to pick up my camera and push harder.
As I got into this project the similarities of what I was doing, and the activities of the hunters became apparent. They would head off into the bush in search of quarry, I found mine at their competitions and clubrooms. Where they stalked, I talked. They demonstrate their expertise, skill and endeavour in the form of the taxidermised kills, I, in the prints and images I choose to share. We are both hunting trophies.
Stalk. Aim. Shoot.
So in these final prints there is a nice circularity at work. They are trophies of trophies.