One of my biggest, unhealthy preoccupations in life is, well, death. I won't get into all of it, it's far too big a topic for an image description, but the notion of it, the mention of it, is dreadful to me. I have not witnessed a human death yet, directly, I have not seen life slip from a loved one. I have however seen a pet put to sleep in front of me, and it was horrible, mainly because of the fear in the dog just being in the vet's office, a place so many animals fear, and then meeting it's very sudden end in that cold, metallic environment.
That one stayed with me, and despite having been to several funerals and wakes of family members since then, nothing was as hard as seeing death happen, seeing the lights literally go out like that. In the last year I have seen two animals killed by vehicles on the road. One was a cat, and I was at a red light, so I was mere feet from it being struck, and watching it struggle to move and flee, it's body broken. It lay still and quietly died before the light turned green.
A few months later it was a large deer, walking across the entrance ramp of a highway and was struck so violently, at such speed, it was shocking. I watched it skid down the road in a spray of glass and blood, its limbs scrambling for purchase, terror and tension, and pain. Both these events, typical in a large suburb or a city, had a strong effect on me. I love animals, and it is heartbreaking when the human developments and toys of the world cause the death of an innocent life.
To that end, it is unfathomable and disturbing to me when mankind injures, kills or hunts an animal for sport or sadistic pleasure. It takes an absence of empathy to hurt a dog or a cat, a lack that borders on psychotic and disturbed. I just don't get it.
This image is a little bit of all of that, with my human subject enacting an animal's death. He is injured, the lights in the distance possibly being huntsmen or the headlights of cars on a road. Possibly he is being hunted, possibly he is retreating to a safe place, a quiet place to die, as so many animals tend to do when they feel death coming to them. Perhaps if we experienced a death like this, naked and alone as life slipped away, we humans would be kinder and more empathetic to the innocent creatures that share the world with us.
On a technical note, this image may have been the hardest one I have ever attempted. The water, the trees, the model, all these elements were shot separately on different days and in different lighting conditions, and blending them with masks required me to try some new things to get a level of realism to the blends. I made this shot three times, using three different shots of three different models until I was happy with it. Rather than copy the oft used deer antlers on a human I have seen a thousand times in other photos, I decided these metallic poles were more abstract, but still read vaguely "animal." The recurring red balloons in the distance can represent either lost life drifting away or symbols of human activity as the source of the death.
Model: Felix P.
Tags: Digitally manipulated
Portraits and people
Flash and lighting
Philip_H, Bzox, Daisymaye and 14 more