I’m often asked where I find my subjects for some of my personal portraits; the answer is simple – if I see someone interesting I go up and ask them! Take Chas for instance; I have regularly cycled past his long boat on the Wey Navigation just underneath the M25 motorway bridge, and often thought he would probably make a great subject, but the problem was his boat was on the other side of the canal so it was difficult to make contact with him.
When I was commissioned to photograph a pheasant shoot in North Wales, I had mixed feelings about it; I grew up in the countryside so knew about these things as well as some of the people involved, but I am also aware of people’s sensitivities towards this subject.
I was allowed to shoot some behind the scenes imagery with the head gamekeeper, which was an eye-opening experience and I was struck by how integral to the local economy this shoot was. The village pub’s survival was based on it and many local people worked on the shoot in various capacities outside of the shoot days.
There was an odd contradiction in the way the gamekeepers would spend months looking after the pheasants and their habitat, feeding them and providing clean water regularly, as well as protecting them from predators such as foxes and rats. The pheasants are given free rein in a large wood which is fenced off using wire netting, and again the ‘keepers patrol the fence daily to ensure that there are no breaches that would mean a fox may have got in to the wood. They would lay traps to catch rats and grey squirrels which eat the food that they put out for the birds, and to keep crows away who can eat the young birds (as well as attack lambs). The effects of the ‘keepers efforts generally help the survival of other non-game bird species, as well as helping lamb farmers protect their flock.
Although it’s not my job to judge things I certainly came away with an alternative perspective, but I still wouldn’t want to be a pheasant….