nicolai howalt
This small book is clothed in a soft, green suede cover with a single image of a bird embossed on the front. In a classic case of not judging a book by its cover, the unexpected title is How to Hunt. The word 'hunting' conjures up images of gore, dominance and fraught relationships between man and nature. This Danish gem, by Trine Sondergaard and Nicolai Howalt, is as far away from the immediacy of such Deerhunter drama as the tactile gentleness of the cover and prosaic Danish countryside can take it. How to Hunt quietly seduces the reader to join in a ghostly communion with Nature. Although hunters (of birds, not deer) inhabit its pages, they are always secondary to the verdant tableaux of the countryside which holds their quarry.

The first image is a spread of purplish fog. The fog lifts and we are off, on a journey through forest and field that has the reader feeling the damp Danish soil beneath his feet. The chase is portrayed by camera angles which leave the hunters, all older men in long coats, on distant horizon lines appearing as small gods trying to exercise their dominion. The artists, Sondergaard and Howalt, have put their own spin on the hunt through digitally manipulated photos that show hunters, fallen prey and the chase-all in one sweep. They have succeeded in capturing the vulnerability of these humans, guns pointed towards the huge sky. There are moments where coming out of a winter fog the hunters look like masses on a pilgrimage. They embody a time gone by. Perhaps this is why there is a sense of searching for a lost paradise. What the hunters seem to miss is that the countryside, in its abundant and mysterious glory, is the sublime. The reader gets the best of both worlds: an experience with this enigmatic landscape and voyeuristic role in an archaic hunting ritual. Nature wins this time; one could say it was foretold by the lush green cover that surrounds the hunt.