“All the arts are based in the presence of man, only photography derives an advantage from his absence.”
The production and distribution of hunting photographs is a marginal sub genre that has nevertheless existed since the birth of field photography, when camera hunting was not only hegemonic but articulated wildlife photography as we know it today. In the original pictures, the hunter makes sure he is photographed with his game, positioning himself by the lifeless animal and either propping its head up or holding it up by the antlers or neck.
Oscar Holloway has appropriated these images from the internet and manipulated them by methodically erasing the hunter from the picture, leaving the animal in a state of self-suspension in a retouched photographic landscape. The removal of the human presence leaves behind an eerie display of a seemingly tranquil animal slumbering, at peace in its natural surroundings.
Some of the larger C-prints present transfigured images reminiscent of the romantic pictorial tradition typical of Sir Edwin Landseer’s perishing stags across a deliberate selection of a wide range of animal species.
Another set of images offer a more uncertain vision touching on the banality of the act. Lastly, a heap of smaller glossy “bad” snapshots show a much harsher (nocturnal, redeyed, out of focus) approach to the same subject, this time tainted with obsession, marginality and decadence, but also allowing spontaneity and the unexpected into the frame. The title links the resulting stasis and artifice in the body of work to the diorama, a
scientific spectacle device perfected in the 1920s in institutions like the American Museum of Natural History or the Chicago Field Museum. With their aim to present a frozen image of the wilderness, these dioramas were meant to enforce an anthropocentric discourse of natural history which would become the prevailing view of nature in the public’s consciousness.
While the exhibited specimens had to be shot down, paradoxically, one major result of this was the rise of the conservation movement, which benefited certain species from (at least indexical) extinction.
The artist’s image-based investigations and interest in the construction of natural history and the representation of non-human animals has been explored previously in Hunters (2012), Her Videos, a Storyboard (2013) and Eventing Fields (2013) as well as academic research for his M.A. thesis, “A Down” Decadence of Hunting Aesthetics in Film from Fred Bear to 8 year old Will submitted at Central Saint Martins.
He currently lives and works in London.
Curated by Lisa Kim.