The exhibition of ‘Hunters’ by David Chancellor definitely makes you think about the way in which the hunting industry is represented, but it also makes you think about how you, as an individual feels about hunting. I feel that when looking at this exhibition, the recipient will either feel a great hatred towards hunting due to the images of the deceased animals, an understanding towards the functions and benefits of hunting or to view the exhibition with an understanding that this is what hunting is, to some extent. From a personal viewpoint, I strongly detest hunting as it is unnecessary killing which is not needed. When looking at the exhibition for the first time, I have to admit that it did make me feel slightly uncomfortable due to the images of such majestic creatures being killed and skinned, then to be later placed within a living room or placed on a mantle as a mere trophy
But when looking at the exhibition more closely, it becomes evident that the photographer is neither attempting to glorify the hunting industry or portraying the message of how horrible hunting is. Even though some of the photographs may be upsetting for the animal lovers such as myself, the exhibition provides a neutral perspective towards hunting and bringing to light that hunting still exists. Within the exhibition, there are a number of photographs in displaying the different aspects within hunting; from target practise to the process of preserving the different parts of the animal. But I feel that the photographs with the women next to their ‘kill’ provides an interesting perspective towards how they react differently when near the creature. For instance, the photograph of the elderly woman next to the dead wildebeest suggests that she feels some remorse and sympathy towards this creature. From a personal viewpoint, I felt quite confused when looking at this photograph as it didn’t make sense why she is displaying signs of maternity and care towards a creature she has killed herself. When looking at the photograph with no indication towards the context, you come up with a variation of different possibilities as to what has just happened, what is going to happen and why this has happened and I feel that this is beneficial to some extent as you are able to view them without additional information and to create your own narrative from the exhibition.
On the 6th November, the event ‘Feed Your Mind’ provided the public with some useful information towards how the exhibition of ‘Hunters’ can be viewed from different perspectives, other than the obvious view of morality towards killing wild animals. Professor Daniel Brockington provided some interesting and thought-provoking information in regards to the exhibition which helped to broaden my own perspective towards hunting.
Daniel began by talking about how hunting is one of the many forms of tourism within Africa, in bringing in people from abroad in order for them to partake in the ‘sport’. Tourism, obviously, results in a financial gain for Africa, but it is interesting in seeing how hunting is important towards the financial benefits for the hunters, the trackers etc… in creating a sort of ‘economical boost’ for the local communities who assist with guarding the conserved parts of land specifically made for the animals which have been selected to hunt down. As the talk progressed, Daniel explained how surrounding the National Park, there are game reserves for the hunters, which made the barrier clear between the land you can hunt on and the land that you can’t. The whole notion of ‘game reserves’ which have been made specially for hunters is quite intriguing as Daniel described how hunters are becoming more inventive with the species they breed for hunting, in selecting certain breeds and to some extent, creating a new species which can only be found within a game reserve. I found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that particular species are being selected and produced, only to be killed by someone who feels they have some immense authority and power over this majestic creature.
However, as the talk progressed, Daniel was elaborating on the concept of how hunters have helped in introducing the Eurocentric expectation of hunting, to produce the message of hunting being exclusive for the privileged Europeans and what they should be doing. This began to make more sense as when I viewed the exhibition for the first time, myself and my sister noticed that most of the hunters being photographed next to their ‘kill’ belonged to a privileged European background – the biggest aspect being that they were white hunters. Looking back at the concept of the ‘Eurocentric’ hunting, Daniel explained how there was the idea of having access directly to the wildlife of Africa and to restrict African hunting so that European hunting could flourish in the future and not being deprived by any African hunters.
Furthermore, Daniel brought up the concept of Tarzan which was interesting as he elaborated further in how Tarzan represents one of the myths of the white man saving the wildlife and being the hero. Tarzan is not a representative of the continent but more for the white majority of the world. In seeing how he is portrayed in the classical films, he is not one with nature to start with; he wears furs from animals he has killed which contradicts the ‘hero’ concept. But within later adaptations, he begins to become closer with nature but ultimately remains to be the white wild man.
In addition to this, there was the contemplation around the word ‘Africa’, what does it mean to some people and what images does this word in particular conjure up? It seems that this word has become generalised, in meaning the wildlife with jungles filled with exotic animals. In addition to ‘Africa’ becoming a general meaning with no clarity, Daniel describes how within hunting, there lies within the origins British aristocracy, the idea of capturing such wild animals and to relive that ‘moment’ in having the animals skinned and mounted on their mantle place at home.
When trying to understand the cause or reason behind hunting, the usual reason which everyone jumps to is poverty, that some local communities hunt down certain animals in order to support themselves, their families and being the only way to gain any money. But as the talk progressed, it seems clear that poverty alone is not enough to be the driving force behind poaching and hunting. When thinking of why hunters hunt, it seems evident that this industry has become a part of their lives and would seem almost impossible to remove.
This event of ‘Feed Your Mind’ proved to be most eventful and productive in providing some context towards the hunting industry, but also in showing the role that photography plays within the portrayal of Africa. It is apparent that Professor Daniel Brockington has enabled us to view this exhibition as being an instrument in conveying the message of hunting from the rest of the world.