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Tom Oliver Lucas- North Of Oktober

May 1, 2018

“Based in the UK, I am a photographer whose work focuses on landscape, portraiture, and narrative. Whilst having a preoccupation for post structuralist philosophy I create these narrative documentary images in a hope to raise questions about environmental and social awareness, in countries influenced by Western popular culture. I am currently working with a small community in Sweden, in a village with very few permanent residents, surrounded by almost untouched nature.”

 

In 1789 King Gustav III, gave the right to hunt to “common people”, which is a decision still impacting modern Swedish hunting. As a result of this, game was almost hunted to extinction and, in 1830, the Swedish Association for hunting and wildlife management was founded to stop the extinction of wildlife and form ethical hunting tradition.

 

Hunting became part of wildlife management and conservation, and now the Swedish Association is commissioned to lead parts of wildlife management. It has around 80 years of game management in public service. The Association is a member owned organisation with approximately 160,000 members (2014). Hunting is considered, by an increasing number, as a tool for the sustainable use of nature. The guiding principle for hunting in Sweden is “freedom under responsibility.”

 

It could be argued that the relationship between the individual hunter and the moose they hunt reflects their ethical commitment to the sustainable conservation of the natural environment in which they practice. Many different emotions are layered in this relationship, which surface and are shown during the annual communal hunting events - from the seriousness of their practice to the conviviality of their companionship.

 

Where did your inspiration for the series Lines Of Flightarise?


Originally my inspiration for Lines of Flight came from Deleuze and Guattari’s “A Thousand Plateaus”, which has a passage talking about “the line of flight” and relating that to lived events, historical determinations, concepts, individuals, groups and social formations. This phrase really connected in my mind to how I saw the village in Sweden, as a series of many different lines of flight, many different characters with many different stories, all having connected randomly, and many originally from different places having moved into the village. But ultimately all forming a very strong community. This was just before visiting in October 2016 for my first year participating the the community hunting week.

 

Over what period of time did you spend photographing the people and places featured in your series Lines of Flight and what kind of relationship did you find, if any with your subjects?

 

I have been photographing the series Lines of Flight for two and a half years now, mainly between social events happening in both February and October, which are the events of hunting and a party held on the Island in the middle of the lake. I chose these events because they are intimate community and social gatherings. Having covered two lots of each of these social gatherings, taking photographs and socialising with community members, I have been building closer friendships with a lot of those people, and also meet new people from the community every time I visit. I find myself building a stronger relationship with the community members during hunting in October though as this is an entire week where I spend time with, work with and photograph those who are participating in the hunting. 

 

How has your series Lines of Flightprogressed with the extension to the series:North of Oktober?

 

The progression of Lines of Flight has been interesting with the extension of “North of Oktober”. I have started working in a different format with medium format film on 6x6, so my way of working has changed a bit. I wanted to combine my digital work from the first year of hunting with this 6x6 work that I shot this year, with more portraiture in a sub-series which tells more of the story of hunting in the community during October, as well as what it means to the nation. I wanted to tell a story which actually had aspects of people, time and place. I had hoped the title of the sub-series would tell a tale of time and place already, whilst playing on Swedish and English language. I think that this has given clarity and another layer of meaning to this set of images within the series of Lines of Flight. I hope that the series humanises the hunters whilst staying neutral on the subject of hunting but offering insight into the importance of moose hunting in Sweden and in the village. I aim to continue this sub-series and also the series Lines of Flight in order to raise questions about environmental awareness and the effects that environmental change could potentially have, or could already be having on small communities like this one in Sweden.

 

You appear to take a very neutral approach to the documentary aspect of your work, is this intentional or is this something that comes naturally to your working process?

 

I feel that it is very important to keep as neutral as possible when creating documentary style work, as it is important in my mind to have both sides; pro and con, to any piece of work in order to create full questions. I think the ability to ask questions rather than to try and find the answer with documentary projects is important. This is something that is crucial to my working process and that would be impossible if I wasn’t in any way neutral. I think that this also opens the project up to more constructive criticism which creates more questions for me to ask myself with the project. I think being neutral is an intentional approach to my work, in the sense that I knew before making any of this project that I would have to be neutral in order to form healthy questions for my project, and projects in the future.

 

Where is your practice taking you now? Do you plan to continue photographing further with Lines of Flight or are you moving on to something else?

 

My practice is taking me towards creating further work with Lines of Flight and in Sweden, but this will only be seasonally for the time being. I am thinking of creating another sub-series, which will hopefully be during summer, of a final seasonal, social gathering. I have just photographed the island party this February, but am still in the process of developing the film, so that will soon be added to the February sub-series “Winterö”. In the meantime my brother and I have created a new project which we are soon to start photographing in the UK. This will be a similar project exploring how people and landscape influence each other, but also how we could use overlooked areas of landscape to potentially connect more so with our local communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Instagram: @tomoliverlucas

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