Thursday, May 13, 2010

A heartfelt connection to my subject.

On the drive to the store two days ago, I discovered a deer that had been hit on the overpass of a busy highway interchange. I don't know how the deer managed to make its way up on this overpass, but it never made it to the other side. I imagine it was confused and afraid when finally it was hit and killed. The deer was near a guardrail close to the edge of a thirty or forty foot drop.  Since I am creating death portraits of deer, I often carry or go back to the scene of an accident to photograph the remains.

There are times though, that I miss the chance to photograph a deer since the road commission makes it there before I do. For instance, I still kick myself for procrastinating and not going back to shoot the deer that was killed just moments down the road, where a catholic church has been erected at a price tag of $12,000,000 and brought along with it, an influx of traffic to the area. I had stumbled upon it in the morning light on my drive in to work one day. The sun reflected off the faux copper steeple in the background while the deer basically lay at the footsteps of the church. When I went back a couple of days later with my camera, the shot no longer existed. (sigh)

SO last night when I left the house I grabbed my camera. Unfortunately, the deer on the overpass had been removed. Further down a busy "country" road, I found what turned out to be the most beautiful deer I've ever seen. In the back of my head, I could hear my husband's voice asking me not to stop since it was so close to when our kids bedtime, but I pulled over anyway and rushed through a few quick shots.

While I was there a woman stopped and asked if the deer was fresh. I told her no, she was cold. Upon stating this, I realized I had missed the fact that the deer had swollen nipples. Upon further inspection I realized the deer was pregnant.  The woman further explained she was looking to save the meat for food. After a quick conversation, the woman left me to continue shooting.

After she left I quickly welled up with tears as the emotion of what I was face to face with filled my body. My connection to these animals goes back as far as I can remember. I've always felt a heavy weight in my heart passing by these graceful animals on the side of the road. We have abandoned our cities expanding into their natural territories and I don't think we have the right to say THEY are the ones overpopulating. There I stood photographing a tragedy; a mother with child, hit by a car. My own pregnancies and birth experiences flooded my head. I felt that I was exploiting this awful tragedy for the sake of my art and came back to the question I always come back to: What greater contribution am I really making to society?

As I was leaving, I turned and saw a state trooper had pulled behind my van. I walked up to his window, assuming he wanted to talk, and he asked me (in a not so nice tone) if I normally drive around shooting dead deer. My response was a simple, yes. I told him the deer in front of us was pregnant and to that he wished me a safe journey.


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