Hunting, according to the dictionary, is an “Art” or “Act”. In my imaginary it has always been more about photography and less about taxidermy; as if the prey was a mere accessory in the hunter’s pose – the real trophy.
When I decided to document the everyday of Portuguese hunters it immediately came to mind the ‘cliché’ picture of photographer J.A. da Cunha Moraes. Shot during a hippo hunting in the Zaire River in Angola and published in 1882 in the album “West Africa”, it pictures the big white hunter posing at the centre with his rifle while surrounded by the local tribesmen.
It was then with this ‘cliché’ in mind that I arrived in Alentejo to search for the big hunters of today. In the course of many months, from Mora to Mértola and also crossing other councils, I saw deer, boars, foxes and fawns. I shot ‘montarias’ [collective hunting] in areas of associative hunting and private estates, wealthy as well as middle-class hunters. Meat hunters and trophy hunters. I shot those who hunt as a livelihood and those who do it as a once in a while weekend hobby. I followed hunting’s varied rhythms and moments, the watch and the prey, the wine and the blood, the bursting shots and the whispers of the fields.
Right in the first few days and during a hog baiting in the corn fields of Montemor-o-Novo, I was fortunate to meet José António aka Berras, owner of the hound pack ‘Tempestade de Mora’ [‘Mora Storm’]. The personality, knowledge and experience of Berras and of his aid and friend Nelson, lead me to follow them along in several hunts.
I was lucky. I listened to hunting stories from the mouth of conscious hunters and also from others for whom quantity tops over anything. I found an ageing, majority male population and a clear minority of young people – a ‘species’ threatened by ageing and loss of economic capability, something I found to be particularly true among those dedicated to small game hunting.
The outcome of this apparent reunion is, at first sight, this series of images. Distanced from the 1882 cliché, behind the lens and facing men handling their riffles, the photographer did not let himself get ‘hunted down’ neither by the pose or prey. x