I am not afraid of death, but the process of dying itself.
My brother had asked me if I wanted to go see foreclosed property where two deer died in an attempt to jump a fence. I was interested in how the deer that could easily jump a six-foot fence could get impaled on a five-foot fence, so I asked my brother to drive me to the site.
I found that the carcasses of the deer were rotting on the fence like my brother had told me. The two deer were in various states of decay on different parts of the property. It was the first week of spring after a brutally cold and snowy winter. When the earth was buried in snow the deer tried to jump the fence and sank into the snow as they made their leap. They had no hard ground to make the jump off of and ended up getting caught on the fence that was spiked at the top. They died a slow painful death.
No one heard their cries; no one saw their struggle as they died. Predators had left their marks, including me. Am I a predator taking pictures making my marks or am I telling their story? I did not hear their cries or see their struggle. I only saw the evidence of their slow struggle to die. And now I will also observe their decay.
I can tell their story, but will someone hear or see me?
Am I the deer? Taking my pictures that may or may not be seen. Like the deer no one sees my struggles. Or am I a predator taking the last thing the deer have left to give – their story.
I can lend the deer a bit of my creativity, so maybe we both can be heard. To say we are here or have been here. Death does not scare me but living a life unheard does. I know this is part of the reason that drives me to take the first set of pictures and led me to follow the process of their decay through the weeks.
While shooting these pictures I became aware of other deer that had died this winter. They had died in a different manner and environment then the deer on the fence, so the decay was different. This is all science and I only know what I observed. Deer decompose at different rates and in different manners. There are all sorts of predators that drive the process along, from large predators like Turkey Vultures and Foxes to the smallest of bugs.
But this is science and I am not a scientist or theologian – just an artist. I see the Deer as Dragons in my imagination. Fierce like warriors shedding their armor as their bodies aged and decomposed. As time would pass I would see their expression would change. Objects around the Dragons I saw as knights willing to fight or protect the Dragons.
By watching the process of the deer decaying I began to realize I was not watching death but the process of life and rebirth. What was a dead dear in its decay was becoming part of the earth again. In the end I wanted the story to be about life rather than death. My intention was not to make pretty pictures but strong fierce pictures that reflect the subject matter rather than to creating pictures that would comfort people’s fears about death. Life and Death both can fierce and scary at times. You can look away and look at only the parts of it that are pleasing. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s a choice you make as an individual. I choose not to look away. That is just how I am.
Book By Christine Anderson