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an Animal Death

By MichaelBilottaPhotography    
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 Digital art Portraits and people Flash and lighting

Voters: Philip_H, Bzox, Daisymaye and 14 more

Guest Editor's Award

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Daisymaye Plus
12 23 19 Canada
6 Jul 2013 1:56PM
My first thoughts before reading were he was pinned to the ground by a mob of gangsters/mob that came out of the cars with headlights. They are watching him struggle to get away, dressed in black so we don't see them. But we know they are there. Very creative and gets the old brain working.......Sandy
HectorRivera 13 17 1 United States
6 Jul 2013 2:07PM
Interesting concept. Great conposit. However, as a Combat Soldier and a human remains search and recovery specialist, I have seen death up close many times in far lands. The experience is one that stay with you for ever and weaks you up every night. Great shot
Alda 8 70 30 United Kingdom
6 Jul 2013 3:04PM
Seeing an animal die is hard enough, count yourself lucky you haven't witnessed a human passing. My husband died in bed next to me and even now, almost 11 years later, I still wake up from nightmares seeing the 'lights go out', and there being nothing where seconds before there was life.

Anyway, excellent image as usual. The only thing I would say is maybe edit out that little red mark in the lhs bushes, it just doesn't look like it belongs Grin
thanks for your comments Sandy, Hector, and Alda. I appreciate the sharing of experiences, even if they were terrible. I have been luckily spared from the human version of this, and I am sure it is incredibly difficult to witness.

Alda, the red, if you mean in the foreground, was an attempt to stain the water with a hint of blood.
Alda 8 70 30 United Kingdom
6 Jul 2013 4:39PM

Quote: Alda, the red, if you mean in the foreground, was an attempt to stain the water with a hint of blood.

No, on the lhs, in the bushes between the birds and the two white lights, there is a red 'dot' Grin
ah, that is another balloon Smile
bluesandtwos 11 521 1 England
6 Jul 2013 6:23PM
I need a better monitor! Mine really doesn't do justice to the images that people like yourself post. Wink

Another great image, as for the text I have held the hands of loved ones as they have passed away and there was a great feeling of peace and release. I have also, with my job for nearly twenty years with the emergency services, seen both the dead and the dying, and yes, that does stay with you no matter what others may say. In trauma there seems to be no peace, just an end that shouldn't have been.

DeSilver Plus
13 14 12 England
7 Jul 2013 11:14AM

Quote: I have not witnessed a human death yet, directly.

I worked on the Ambulance service for most of my working life and was always amazed at how easy life slips away. Sometimes the person goes peacefully and are glad to make the transition. The end of pain whether it be physical or mental and some fight for every last breath but nature overcomes us all in the end.

Quite an interesting write up and photograph. Well done.


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