Someone wrote a comment on a post of mine recently: 'I've chosen a less violent path precisely because I experience these things with such intensity, that inflicting additional pain on any being is unfathomable to me. My life is no less "real" than yours. In fact, when I immerse myself in the outdoors in peace with other living entities, I could argue (but I don't) that my experience with nature and animals is far more genuine than yours. Being a predator robs you of the symbiotic interactions you tend to have when you become a non-threatening presence.'
Doubtless wringing the neck of a wounded and struggling rabbit doesn't count as being a non-threatening presence enjoying symbiotic interactions with the natural world.
I spent last night drinking cheap wine, messing about with a dodgy internet connection, snorting snuff - and thinking about romantic images. It's difficult for me to avoid romanticising hunting - romanticising the image that I project of what it is I'm doing when I'm out in the fields with a rifle. I take photographs when I'm out there and I muck about with them to try and make them attractive. Here's one:
A charmingly pastoral picture of the unspoilt Staffordshire countryside. Well, to me it's a pretty image - but it's just that: an image. The M6 motorway lies about a hundred yards behind the spot from which I took this photo; the noise of traffic is a constant background to all of the time I spend in these fields.
I took another photo yesterday - just before I started shooting at the rabbit - of the ground beneath my feet: old bottles, nettles and feathers from the Wood Pigeon I'd shot the day before:
I've mucked about with this image too, of course; I can't stand photographs that haven't been diddled with at least a little bit in Photoshop: I can't bear the unvarnished image.
I get a keen pleasure in imagining the image that I present to passing motorists when I walk home with a dead rabbit swinging at my side; I am enjoying being - myself - an image in these moments.
In my opinion (and I don't say 'humble opinion' because, for one, it's a cliché to do so and also because, in any case, there's little that's genuinely humble in my saying this, I'm being rather rude in fact) to see oneself as a 'non-threatening presence' at one with the animal world in a peaceful symbiosis is, actually, just another image: an image of a beautiful soul that contrasts with the - one must suppose - unattractive image of the predatory hunter.
As the rabbit cooked last night I took a photo of my laptop and snuff tin & pipe-strewn coffee table - but it seemed too bleak and ugly a picture to me so I Photoshopped it until it seemed less appalling to my eye.
I've left out some details of the dying rabbit too - there's no way that I could include them in any remotely 'acceptable' presentation on this blog. I've presented one image in the words I've used but I could have chosen other words in order to make it a more anodyne or a more purposefully shocking image instead - but this amounts to little more than a tinkering with the niceties of the picture. Am I offering the image of a tidy, responsible and humane hunter? Or am I offering the image of a gritty, chain-smoking Hemingway-esque hunter? Which is the real one?
I don't think any image is real. Images are always imaginary. You can pick the ones you like (I certainly pick the ones that I like) - but 'real' isn't about images at all. Real is something else; the real always refuses to be caught in the image.