Many of the photos taken in this project are of hochsitz- translated as high seats- that are used by local hunters to watch animals. When I first started exploring the fields I thought they were only used to kill animals, for what reason I wasn’t sure. I found them to be so beautiful though- simple raw designs and I was attracted to the fact that they’re all slightly different, some more so than others. They became way points when wandering. I would reach one and decide which would be the next one I was attracted to. Other times I sensed that they were end points where I would stop and turn back. The eerie feeling I had around them reflected both the winter and an internal vulnerability. They reminded me that I felt like prey- in that I had placed myself on the other side of the world and therefore felt very visible by the very act of being a foreigner. Perhaps this is why I was so drawn to them in the first place- they allowed me to play out externally and physically the very feelings I was experiencing psychologically/emotionally.
I decided a ‘local knowledge session’ with mama was in order. Perhaps by dissecting the hochsitze I would be able to dissolve my own fear of the internal ‘death’ I was experiencing (in this case death takes the form of being disconnected from familiar relationships with people/places and self). I found out that the seats are used far more strategically than I had initially thought. Yes, they are used to kill the animals in order to stop them from eating/destroying all of the crops, but no, it was not a random process. Hunters, of which we have 2 in this small village, go into the fields and observe the fauna very closely, constantly monitoring the population. They also perform the role of keeping balance in the ecosystem- in that if one species starts taking over then they cull from that species. (During observation they note which animals are either old or injured and always kill these ones first.) Back in the day the local wolf population kept the numbers of other animals in check, but since man killed off virtually all the wolves in the region, they have now taken on this role. Man operates very differently to wolves so the fact that we’ve just stepped into the role is not a smooth transition and bears inherent problems. I’m not sure I want to get into the irony/philosophical or ethical arguments involved here. Maybe because I’m still figuring out where I stand on the issue.
But what does interest me is how this has changed my perception of hunting to some extent. I see that the hunters have an intimate knowledge and connection with the land and the fauna, even if that connection is premised on anthropocentric values. I still firmly believe we need to move beyond a sense of man’s dominion over ‘the environment’ but in looking at the steps I can’t help feeling that at least beginning with some form of connection is key to reimagining ourselves not merely as takers and controllers but as caretakers, much the same way that our ancestors were.