Taking a turn toward the dark side can teach you a lot about the photographer you are, the photographer you wish to be, and things you choose to leave behind. So at the stroke of midnight as the old year withers away, I post this minor homage to death.
Documenting death is part of the experience of life. Before I go any further, I want to give a shout out to Alec Johnson, a fine photographer and an excellent sounding board. Conversations with Alec about the following image caused a great deal of soul searching in my decision to share this imagery with you. Ultimately, though not “my brand” as Alec put it, I decided the imagery meant enough to me to want to share it.
Photo: Death on the Lakeshore
This image was captured on the shores of Lake Superior in the spring of 2012. A small buck White-tailed Deer, apparently hit by a car, struggled to the lakeshore where it died. The plan was to stake out this carcass in the hopes eagles or even wolves might stumble upon it. None did. As I watched the carcass, I found the brooding sky and the harshness of the shoreline coupled with the message of the death of a fellow creature too compelling to pass up. Though it isn’t part of “my brand”, I decided it evoked too much to go uncaptured and ultimately unshared.
I have photographed kill sites before in my work in the Badlands. I have come upon the fresh carcasses of kills by mountain lion, coyote, bobcat, and birds of prey. I have followed aged bison as they stumbled across the plains taking the last breaths they would ever take. As a documentary and wildlife photographer I felt these scenes completed the story of the wild in which I was ensconced. While they are fine examples of storytelling and nature photography, they were never art in the true sense-to me, at least.
This image takes the step of going from documentary photography of a mildly tragic nature story to a compelling vision created with a mission: evoke emotion. If you walk away untouched, I have failed. Though it isn’t part of the Rikk Flohr brand, I share it nonetheless for those who would not turn aside.
Death is powerful. It can also be poignant.
Rikk Flohr © 2012