We sat down with contemporary photographer Abby Storey to chat about her work and practice. Her exhibition is currently running in our gallery space until next Saturday, the 5th of July.
What is the inspiration behind your current body of work ?
Moving to Melbourne from New Zealand made me really think about where the meat I was eating came from. In NZ I had a good source of genuinely free-range, humanely slaughtered meat, and this was something I initially struggled to find in my new home. My research into areas such as animal welfare, invasive species, food production and land management made me increasingly aware, and in many ways appreciative of the specific knowledge and skills of someone who hunts animals for food and conservation. I have always struggled with killing anything, even a mangled mouse who has been caught in a trap. My inadvertant cruelty in such instances (thank goodness there’s always been someone else around!), sits uneasily beside the fact that I eat meat. I have a huge admiration for someone who is able to – humanely – slaughter and dress the animal they are going to eat, there’s an honesty to this that many of us lack. This is not to say I am pro-hunting however, more pro competance and accountability.
I feel that the hunter in this series of photographs has more empathy for animals, and understanding of their habits and needs, than many doting urban pet owners I have met. I felt that his lifestyle was important to document as his skills and knowledge, once commonplace, are becoming increasingly more rare as food production and animal rearing becomes a larger and more industrialised industry.
How do you create these works, what is your process?
These photographs were created during trips to New Zealand, over 5 years. The process was slow due to distance, the shy nature of the subject, and the fact that I had a small (increasingly large) baby in a front pack for many of the photo shoots.
I shot the series on film, using my beloved Hasselblad. I favoured the Hasselblad for this series as it is held at waist height, going someway to removing the barrier between me and my subject, and allowing conversation and eye contact to remain unhindered by a camera to the eye.
What is your background/education/full-time artist?
I have worked in photography since graduating with a degree in Visual Communications from Unitec in Auckland, NZ.
Tell us a story connected to these works:
The dog kennel pictured in Meggie’s Kennel is affectionately known locally as the ‘dog Hilton’ (after the fancy hotel). It has a tree in it for goodness sake! It also has shade from other sources – of course, and a pretty nice sized balcony/run. Meggie is a working dog, a black lab who is in the process of being trained to hunt. She is incredibly disiplined and no one would ever dream of calling her a pampered pooch, yet her home life is clearly not lacking luxuries of an appropriately doggy variety. See Meggie’s Treat for another example… healthy, happy black beast!
Abby Storey is a contemporary photographic artist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her exhibition Of the Land looks at the complex and sometimes paradoxical relationships between humanity and the natural world.
This series forms both a portrait of a man and an exploration of the life he leads. Terry, like his forebears, is a farmer, hunter, dog trainer and man of the land. His is a world of animal husbandry but also animal slaughter, with home-kill meat being a staple of the family diet.
A part of Terry’s life is spent hunting animals that are non-native to the New Zealand bush and are damaging the ecosytem, namely deer, goats, wild pigs and wild cattle. Hunting animals for meat has always been a part of his life and his skill and depth of knowledge about the process is immense.
Hunting and the killing of animals are a part of our history and our evolution. In contemporary society these activities are often viewed as brutal, savage and uncivilised, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not.
Abby Storey has previously shown Of the Land at Gippsland Art Gallery in 2013/2014. Over the last two years she has exhibited in group shows within Germany, and before this throughout Melbourne and her home country New Zealand. Her works are held in collections by the Gippsland Gallery and the Kommunale Galerie in Berlin.
Image: Mariah Sliwczynski