2010 Winners - Runner-up: Anne Golaz
Swiss-born artist Anne Golaz’s photographs of hunters in Switzerland and France, titled The Hunting Game, are heavy with mood and quiet drama. With the sensitive eye of a painter, she introduces us to a hidden village shrouded in darkness and seemingly inhabited only by men and deer. The light of a harsh flash is skillfully used to frame and isolate her subjects. Though the scenes are often staged, they never appear contrived. These cinematic techniques distance the work from a larger, politically charged, context.
Golaz punctuates this seemingly uncritical perspective, however, with a few graphic and brutal images of slain deer. In one photograph, a deer is slung over a hunter’s back, its head, neck, and torso resting in perfect L-shaped geometry against the beautiful bloody mess of a camouflage jacket. In another, a room scattered with beer crates provides the setting for a deer’s slashed and splayed haunches.
The juxtaposition of violence with romance highlights Golaz’s refusal to commit to an agenda; her position remains gracefully ambiguous throughout. The viewer is reeled into the fantasy of the simple country life, populated by men with sad blue eyes and red checkerboard tablecloths, but also entrusted with the reality of death and killing.
In the series’ most emblematic photograph, a kind-faced older gentleman rests his soft fist on a deer’s back as he gazes down at her, her eyes calm with resignation. The scene may also be read as the instant right before the deer has been killed, her eyes not sweet with acceptance but cold with death. The man’s other hand grabbing hold of her antlers, claiming his capture, a moment both tender and chilling. Golaz’s success is in her reluctance to dictate the truth of either reading.