"I hunt, I stalk my prey. I track it through thick brush and undergrowth. I am relentless in my pursuit, ever searching for a final prize. I want something that I can hang on my wall, something I can tell stories to my friends about. I want the stories of struggle, stories of fear, of near misses and lucky shots. I want all of those things. But years ago I laid down my gun and picked up a camera. I remember the moment I saw myself in that animal, trembling and terrified I was. I cried. I didn't see a trophy, I didn't see a prize, I saw my own soul, one in the same, and it needed to be free"
As a kid I grew up with the mindset that hunting was true conservation work. I loved the outdoors. I understood the wild world better than most, and I considered myself part of the natural process. I told my friends stories of how culling animal herds kept more species alive during the winter months. I would talk as if I were an expert on how there wasn't enough food to go around so we were doing our part to keep the population healthy. I was 19 when I experienced the truth of these things I told myself.
I had worked the summer before at a fishing resort in Alaska, and upon returning, my favorite bear. The one I loved to seek out to photograph had been killed, not 3 days before I arrived, by a trophy hunter. His body now lay in front of a fireplace somewhere. Only one person truly gets to experience the beauty of that animal. One selfish individual. This was my first experience seeing the world from another point of view. Until then I had never understood what was being taken from this world. It isn't simply a life that is being taken, but it is the collective experience that this one particular life would have on everything that it would touch. A trophy hunter does more than steal a life from this earth, a trophy hunter steals a life from every living person on this earth. While I have come to believe that no life should be taken for anything other than food, the selfishness of trophy hunting came into full view.
"And it was in that moment that I realized we are not that different, he and I. One grew up to be a man, the other a beast. But we are the same, for he longed for the safety of my existence and I for the freedom of his"
I was 19 when my life changed. I was still a child looking back. I will never forget the first time I saw myself in that animal. I wasn't staring at a bear, but myself. It looked at me and I at him. I didn't see a beast, I didn't see a trophy, I didn't see a prize. I saw a soul, I saw a life and I saw something worth protecting. I made a decision that day, I laid my rifle down.
I have traveled a bit now, seen my share of the world. I have experienced more than my fair share, and intend to continue to do so. But I made a promise, as stupid as it sounds, I made a promise to myself that day my rifle was finally hung up. "Take nothing I won't eat, shoot nothing that means me no harm. Every life on this planet deserves to have its story told and every story is beautiful. There are things that cannot protect themselves, stories that cannot be told without help". After years of perfecting my art, I have finally come full circle.
I know what my work means to me and I know what I am intending to share. Telling you what I meant, or what the intention is feels like cheating, like watching the movie instead of reading the book. I think its important to know my story, my history, but the intention behind the work, the feelings, the emotions, those can only be conveyed in the images themselves.
"Search out the epic. Find the lost corners of the world. Follow forgotten giants that roam the open plains, and seek out those predators that stalk the moonless nights. Revel in the beauty and take in those moments as if they are your last on this earth. These moments won't simply capture your should, they will set it free."