Photograph what you know

Novelists are told they should write about what they know, and IMHO the same goes for photographers. When you are emotionally invested in a particular subject you are more likely to spend time and effort getting the resulting picture perfect than you would with a subject matter you have no particular feelings for. At least, that’s been my experience.

I’m currently working on a new series, with the theme of Blood Sports. I live in a rural area and when I was a young child my uncle kept turkeys, just on a small scale in a barn in his back garden, and each Christmas he’d wring their necks and sell them. I used to sit in my bedroom and cry, feeling the fear and pain of the birds as they died.

In my early teens, my Dad decided to try rearing a few pigs to slaughter for profit. I fed them and watered them and mucked them out, then the day came for their throats to be cut and even now in my 50s their terrified squealing still haunts me.

Living in the countryside I often sit in the quiet of the evening listening to the pop of guns as landowners go round shooting the local wildlife. Rabbits, pheasants, foxes, beautiful roe deer and now badgers as the ban on killing them has recently been lifted. It wounds my soul to think about these beautiful animals, just going about their usual business and suddenly finding themselves mortally wounded, often leaving young behind to starve to death. Needless to say I’ve been vegetarian for over 3 decades.

I like to think I’m an empathetic person and, often as I’m sitting in the quiet pondering, I put myself in the shoes of the wildlife around me. What must life be like from their point of view? And that was the premise behind my new series. For once, the wildlife get to act like we humans act and people are on the receiving end. It’s quite shocking to think about the tables being turned.

This is the first image in my series of three pictures and it’s called ‘Pheasant Shoot’. It was a mare to do and my original idea of having the scene take place in a wood filled with purple heather didn’t work.

Pheasant Shoot

The second idea of doing the shoot in a wildflower meadow also didn’t work plus I got eaten alive by bugs in the process 😁. So this is incarnation number three, which was re-shot in the Autumn and involved standing in hidden wellies in a bog. I was just lucky with the light, because it was an overcast and showery day but just as I starting photographing myself in amongst the dark trees the sun came out and hit right where I was standing! It took a lot of work afterwards, though, to add the pheasants into the shot and to blend them into the grasses, not to mention trying to get them realistically holding guns.

Some people may say that this series is “controversial” but I’m not sure why. “Do as you would be done by” is a fairly simple premise to live by to me.

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