Huntress with Buck


David Chancellor, Huntress with Buck from the Hunters series.

This year’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery has been awarded to the British fine art photographer David Chancellor and his photograph Huntress with Buck. In the photograph we can see a young woman sitting on a horse looking down into the camera. The photograph appears to be slightly manipulated, as the area near the head of the main subject seems to be brightened to increase her aura. The low vantage point of the camera and the elevated position of the huntress have the effect that she looks grand and statuesque. In his photograph, Chancellor evokes the iconography and visual culture of equestrian statues depicting knights, gods and military leaders. The central relationship is not between the huntress and her horse, but between the huntress and the buck lying dead across the horse’s back. The symbolism here is pretty clear: the horse is alive, the buck is dead, their bodies crossing each other where the huntress is sitting. The huntress is portrayed as killer as much as a nurturer.

In a sense, the huntress is at a crossroad herself: she is neither girl nor woman. Without the caption provided, the androgynous looks of the subject also fail to indicate a clear gender identity. It is perhaps an ungendered performance that is possible in the ‘wild’ settings the photograph was taken in. This notion of inbetweeness in the representation of gender is further emphasized by the lighting: photographed when the sun was kissing the horizon, it is neither day, nor is it night. The low sunlight has the effect that all elements in the photograph come visually together as, for a brief moment, everything is steeped in a deep red colour.

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6 thoughts on “Huntress with Buck

    • Dear Ayelet,

      Thanks for your comment. Maybe you can send me the image to marcus.bohr at network.rca.ac.uk and I can insert it into the main text. I am very pleased about your continued input.

      Yours Marco

  1. One of the many things that strikes me about the symbolism of the piece, is how it relates to the type of art held by the National Gallery. If one Googles ‘Diana the Huntress’, that relationship becomes clear, for in many instances, Diana the goddess is ‘pictured’ with a dead buck. This is interesting, because it relates to and validate,s the type of art held by the National Gallery.
    One of the great paintings held by the gallery, Titian’s painting ‘The Death of Actaeon’, tells the story of how prince Actaeon was out hunting in the forest and spied Diana bathing in a pool. To punish him for this unacceptable act of voyeurism, the huntress/Diana turned the prince/man into a stag and he was torn apart by his own dogs.
    I also think , for many reasons that the real symbolic relationship being established by the piece is is the nature of the ‘gaze’, between the viewer and the subject the huntress herself. Hence the aura around her head you mention, which further re-enforces the central placing of that head against the pale blue (blue being the complimentary of orange) sky.
    What is also interesting is the way that the two animals, for whatever reason, have their heads turned away from the viewer, their gazes averted, unlike the huntress, whose gaze seems to be challenging us to dare comment on the questionable morality of the act.

  2. I see a dead life, commercialized clothes and footware and a very sad horse. Do you think she had a struggle before the kill?

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