My ongoing photographic series Hunting Towers, photographed on medium format slide film, was commenced in 2007 and has become a central element in my research. The series focuses on physical structures referred to as hunting towers, raised and utilised by hunters and hunting teams active in the area in which the towers are positioned. Hunting towers provide advantages in visibility for the user and, depending on the structure of the tower, may also provide shelter, a seat and a surface on which to lean and steady one’s rifle.
The purpose-built structures are constructed out of various materials available to the hunters who build them, such as wood, metal and sheets of corrugated plastic; they may be covered in camouflage nets or painted in a camouflage pattern. The structural forms of the hunting towers vary. They usually incorporate an elevated platform on which to stand or sit, with covered sides providing shelter, and a ladder leading up to it. Hunting towers are placed in strategic positions (as agreed upon by the hunting team) where wild game is most likely to be seen. The locations of the towers are often at the edges of forests where the woods meet open fields, on hills and raised ground, or near trails and paths made by wild animals. Most of the towers are, however, portable; hunters may move them into more seasonally relevant positions at different times of the year. Despite the dramatically different and at times adverse weather conditions, hunting towers are often left in situ throughout the year. The Right to Roam law in Sweden allows anyone to enter others’ forests, pick berries and mushrooms there, swim in their lakes, hunt and fish (with a licence), and camp, all on their land. Therefore, although hunting towers are built and owned by hunting teams or individual hunters, others may enter, sit in and use these towers at will.
The hunting towers I photographed are all located in the Swedish county of Västra Götaland, where I grew up. The towers featured throughout my childhood, yet these important places of play and imagination are entirely absent from family photographs from my childhood. This is key to my motivation for my entire research project. To my friends and me, the hunting towers in our local area became spaceships to take us travelling, castle turrets, fortresses and trees to occupy, and monsters to fight. At some point, we remembered their original purpose. Then, hunting towers became symbols of death and killing. My photographs depict a range of different hunting towers, and have been shown in a range of different contexts and formats. If brought together in a grid formation, the focal point of the series may be visually reminiscent of some of the collaborative works of the German photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher (Lange 2007). However, the conceptual basis for my work differs substantially from the Bechers’ ‘typologies’ (ibid. 1) of industrial buildings, as do our respective methodologies in practice. I see the photographs that make up Hunting Towers as individual images, as well as images forming a series of work; my aim is not to create formal typologies of variations of a structure and generate a data bank or encyclopaedia of hunting towers. My interests from which Hunting Towers emerged are more closely related to the practices of hunters and hunting teams in rural Sweden, their makeshift methods of construction, and the presence of these hunting towers (constructed by a minor group in Sweden) in the landscape of everyday life. In other words, the presence, physicality and visuality of these hunting towers may be understood as symptoms, signs, and manifestations of the fringe practices of this minor group of hunters within dominant Swedish culture.