A few years ago a large number of beavers established themselves along the small, crooked creek that winds along one side of my property in the Adirondack Park in upstate New York. As they built more and more dams and eventually began felling trees adjacent to the house, threatening access to our fields as well as the house’s septic system, we reluctantly called in a trapper was reluctantly. I am still wrestling with this decision, and decided to photograph what was left behind after the beavers were removed.
These images of the aftermath of that decision depict a landscape where a variety of forces and impulses collide, photographs of a crime scene where I am both chronicler and perpetrator. Here is a landscape where our mythologies of nature and the realities of our daily lives combine in an uneasy confusion, an analogue to our relationship with the environment on a cultural as well as a personal level. I moved to the Adirondacks because of my love of nature and I try to live my life with respect and concern for the future of our planet. I recycle, I drive a Prius, I give money to environmental organizations…and I kill Beavers. This is the resultant landscape, the trapper’s lament.
Phil Underdown (Albany, NY) received a BA in Photography from Hampshire College and a MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts where his thesis advisory was Frank Gohlke. His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His book Grassland was named one of the best photo books of 2010 by photo-eye.
Recent exhibitions include Airport Landscape: Urban Ecologies in the Aerial Age at Harvard University Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, MA, The Trapper’s Lament at Sol Mednick Gallery in Philadelphia, PA and A Survey of Documentary Styles in Early 21st Century Photobooks at Gallery Carte Blanche in San Francisco, CA.
Phil received CPW’s Fellowship in 2008 and was selected by Leslie K. Brown, former curator at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University. To view his fellowship portfolio, click here.