following the deer

The camera is camouflaged and strapped to the tree. Sometimes a red light blinks. The Whitetail buck doesn’t care, the doe is mindful and the coyote suspects a trap. No one else is there for now. Bresson’s Zen archer is napping in the pine grove, dreaming of half-naked fishermen throwing their nets up into the clouds and the photographer is with the children telling them a story about a hunter who tracks a deer deep in the forest to a glade that he knows but never expected to see. Around the edges of the clearing the hunter glimpses people that he thinks he should know: a girl recovering from death, a man healing a small bird in his mouth, another man overcoming his fear of snakes with the help of a doe. Someone is making a fire. There are choirboys and raccoons. Nobody stays for long. A runaway child slips into the glade and joins the animals. She wants to have the coyote for her own. The coyote will stay with the runaway but won’t get too close. The photographer, tracking his discoveries, will drive the animals into hiding but will take a fine portrait.
Some of the stories the photographer tells are true. Some are outright lies. He explains to the children that photographs don’t lie but he doesn’t need to; the children can tell when a lie is true and, in any case, are somewhat flexible on the issue.

This project partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency