In The Hunt – a project mixing photography with video – Alvaro Laiz tells the tragic story of a tiger hunt in Russia. Through it, he describes the complex relation between man and nature, oscillating between conflict and fascination.
The Siberian people Udegue evolves away from civilisation. Their beliefs are shaped by ancient myths in which tigers are Gods. Creatures they respect, out of fear they might transform into the Amba, an evil beast able to track down and kill men. In 1997, Markov, a poacher, decided to attack a tiger, but lost the fight and tried to run away. The formidable Amba followed him for three days before devouring him.
This story, told by John Vaillant in his book The Tiger inspires Spanish photographer Álvaro Laiz. “I have long been fascinated by shamanism and bonds between nature and culture”, he tells us. Touched by the narrative, he traveled to Eastern Russia. At the end of his trip, he created a book and a video, rooted in reality and influenced by mythology. A fascinating tale built around natives’ testimonies and the underlying presence of the monstrous beast.
Onto the tiger’s tracks
Although Markov’s story takes place in an isolated village, lost in the boreal forest, it tackles a more universal issue. The tiger, an almighty figure, represents the wilderness and its conflictual relationship with humanity.
Laiz then adds to the legacy of artists captivated by this ongoing struggle – painters Friedrich and Turner, and writer Hemingway. The tiger symbolises instinct, savagery dominating mankind. “When we brought the body back, Markov’s widower and daughter were crying”, one of the natives explains. “But despite all the pain that the tiger caused, all that happened was men’s fault”.
In The Hunt, the conflict is anchored in a deserted place, an enclosed and freezing territory. Taiga, and its cold ground form a natural, yet hostile territory. Through the testimonies he collects, Álvaro projects his story on a world where nature, culture and myths are inseparable. “Their beliefs are riddled with references to supernatural forces who shall be respected “, the photographer explains. Away from the urban world, this tale of man’s vanity and nature’s powerful force is even more thrilling.
Images and video from The hunt © Álvaro Laiz