25 Mar 2013

David Chancellor’s “Hunters”

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South African photographer David Chancellor’s new book on African Big Game trophy hunters, Hunters was scheduled for publication on March 15, but must have been delayed since Amazon does not have copies yet.

Slate recently published a preliminary review, offering a sample of Chancellor’s photographs which are certainly worth looking at.

Big Game trophy hunting is an extremely expensive activity, and its end result is commonly the personal trophy room, a grandiose display of taxidermy testifying to levels of wealth and superbia which almost inevitably provoke a negative reaction. Today’s popular culture is pathologically hostile to both, and is even more predictably hostile to hunting, especially the hunting of large, charismatic, and commonly classified as “endangered” Big Game species. So the cards are obviously stacked against the human subjects of Chancellor’s photography from the beginning.

I get the impression that Chancellor succumbed a bit by contagion to some understanding of the hunting instinct, but his careful phraseology seems determined to maintain an “objective,” supposedly neutral, perspective on all this.

I suppose the photographer must have found himself on the horns of a grave dilemma. On the one hand, it would obviously be totally unacceptable to the community of fashion to be found unreservedly celebrating killing animals for sport, and, worse, for trophies! Yet, who but the members of the Dallas Safari Club and others of the same ilk are going to be buyers of such a book? Describing his subject matter in terms agreeable to PETA would not be such a good idea either. So Mr. Chancellor is clearly obliged to walk a very careful prose line.

David Chancellor’s book, Hunters, is a collection of work from photographer, who is based in South Africa, on the world of tourist trophy hunting.

“For many years I’ve been interested in the increasing overpopulation of man and how that clashes with wildlife,” Chancellor said about his initial interest in photographing Hunters.

Hunters examines the actual hunts as well as the end result, where hunters return to their homes filled with their “trophies.”

He also examines local African communities who benefit from the large amounts of money hunters pay to go on these hunts. Chancellor’s images bring to life a hot topic that has divided hunters, conservationists, and animal-rights activists. He isn’t making any judgments about any of the groups and hopes his images will allow for a better understanding of the process from all sides.

“I was working with hunters who were saying hunting and conservation go hand-in-hand, and that was when things got interesting to me,” he said.

To gain access to the hunters, Chancellor needed the help of individuals who accompanied mostly Americans and Eastern Europeans on hunts around Africa. …

Chancellor quickly discovered while trailing the hunters that he needed to be present with them throughout the entire length of the hunt in order to create the most accurate and emotional images.

“You need to be there the second after they’ve done what they’re going to do because that is the moment they will react to an animal after a kill,” Chancellor said. …

To complete the cycle, Chancellor wanted to photograph the trophy rooms of the more seasoned hunters and spent time in Dallas with members of the Dallas Safari Club.

“I found myself documenting these guys who say they’ve hunted for 25 years and want to hunt a leopard or lion, and I photographed them … but at best what I’ll produce from that hunt is an individual with a lion … the only way (to complete the book) was to go back to where he actually has all of his trophies and produce a portrait that would complete the task, to show his entire career in one portrait,” Chancellor said.


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