Y'all know how much I love to photograph, well, dead animals. I love agriculture, hunting, butchering, farming — I live for those types of assignments. So, when I heard about foxhunting in the area — and that there were not one, but three hunt clubs — I knew I had to get out there and photograph it. Weirdly enough, though, foxhunting is sort of a misleading title. See, they don't really kill foxes on these foxhunts. It's more of a "fox chase," as they say. Of course, sometimes the hounds get ahead of themselves and do catch a fox, but those little guys are crafty and clever and can usually evade the hounds easily, unless they're sick or injured (which is uncommon). The hunters even swear that the foxes enjoy the hunts, as if it's a game to them.
So, that's why you won't see too many foxes in my story. I believe, if I go out more (which I plan to when the season starts again in the fall), I'll see a fox evading the hounds. But I don't think I'll see too many that have been hunted down and caught.
Either way, I love the romanticism of this sport. I think it's probably the only place where you'll find that "casual" can mean a suit jacket, vest and tie — at least for John Patteson, the ultimate Southern gentleman.
I struggled with this story a lot, though. I went out probably a total of six times, I believe, over the course of two months. And four of the five times I went out, things didn't go too well. But, somehow, my hail mary at the end paid off and I don't feel as embarrassed showing this story off. I feel like I finally can illustrate the beauty of this sport, which wouldn't seem hard to do — but, somehow, I was stuck and couldn't get past it.
I won't say I wasn't discouraged. I was. I couldn't figure out how I was handed tie-wearing riders, bearded gentlemen, beautiful hounds and majestic horses and couldn't make a good picture to save my life (like, really, I still can't figure it out). Of course, in the world of newspapers, you don't have forever — I had a deadline. It was a constant headache of worrying, "Will I pull through?"
After posting some of my frustrations on the "A Photo A Day" forum, someone told me that I should keep going at it until I nailed it. He said, "Laforet talks about Bresson's twenty or so attempts to get the biker fleeting pas the stairs. It took Jay Maisel 22 different visits to capture Bird in Iran. It took me 5 years to get my wife to try bacon. And guess what — she loved it."
Obviously, this work is nothing compared to Cartier-Bresson. Obviously. But it felt good to keep at something until I was happy with it. I'm satisfied. It's not the most amazing thing I've ever done, but it feels good. I feel like I accurately represented the beauty of this sport. And I think that's incredibly important.