Zoink by Zaptronic

Photo essay Documentary

The Killing Sink

The Killing Sink is the first monograph by Matthew Dunne and it's about the illegal killings of wedge-tailed eagles in Australia. It showcases the animals and the places where the killings took place.

Can you tell a bit about your background (as a photographer)?

Sure - I came to photography somewhat later than others. I haveĀ  a background in Literature but discovered photography through social media about ten years ago. I got a little digital point and shoot and set off walking around where I lived. It took a while to find what I could commit to and make long term, I had some false starts and some small wins along the way, now I spend most of my time oscillating between wanting to continue to make long-form projects about serious issues and enjoying smaller, less self-serious (but still moving) types of output.

I spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff, but don't always have the time for making. I work full time in Education, though not in art education!

Can you tell us a bit more about your new book The Killing Sink?

In Australia there's a long history of people deliberately killing Wedge-Tailed Eagles, a huge bird of prey that lives throughout the continent. For many years this has been illegal and yet, in 2017, a huge court case broke out: two men had killed over 400 eagles in just 18 months. All on their farm in the middle of nowhere. I was so stricken and saddened by this story it just sat with me, I wanted to get closer to the animals and try and use this feeling as an impetus to make art.

Over time my interest and motivations changed. I became interested in how I could represent an animal that is predatory and made up of talons, a sharp beak, is powerful and hungry - but also try to use those qualities to elevate the animal. I want us to be able to respect something on its own terms. I'm sick of Disney anthropomorphised animals that have big eyes, cutesy movements and that are just a puppy-fied version of something more complex. Can we love our fellow predators because they are predators? In Australia, these eagles are emblems - we admire and clone their strength and prowess - but when those things challenge us we just kill the animal.

Overall - I guess what I'm saying is - I wanted to get under the skin of my home. What are the animals of this place like? What is the human legacy that we're creating? How can my photographs inform others' feelings of those things? How closely can I line up beauty and ugliness? How intimate can I get before things feel suffocating?

And what was your process like making this book?

The book is made by VOID - they spent a lot of time on the sequence and design. I wanted help making this book as I felt pulled in a lot of directions by the work - I think I had worked myself into a confused place. What's nice about working with others, for me, is I just hand over control, trust 100% and let things rip. That's the way that works for me.That's a long-winded way of saying - perhaps ask VOID this question.

Before working with VOID I made a lot of dummies and tried a few different design directions on my own. I had some preferences and things I like in books, it was important that I was able to articulate these to a publisher. Things like soft cover, uncoated paper, stuff I respond to. Not all of these things are components of the end product, but having some clear preferences and the language to talk about it made working together much easier.

In your opinion, what circumstances can guarantee a good photograph?

I'm not really interested in guarantees. I prefer risk, being on a knife's edge, not knowing whether you've got it, not got it or somewhere in the middle.
I have found that thinking a lot about why I am doing what I'm doing allows me to be much more spontaneous and open-minded when shooting something. Eagles move a lot, setting up a shoot with one takes months, and it's over in 40 minutes. You can't plan, really, they don't cooperate (nor should they), but the early work helps me feel prepared, but the preparation is just a feeling, the moment is what matters, and I can't control that. I think if I could I'd be bored. I don't want to be a sculptor, painter or set designer, I have no interest in getting reality to do what I want. It's interesting enough just being there.

Which other photographers, designers, artists or creative people are you loving at the moment?

I recently found this little book that's incredibly exciting to me. Photographers want to make bigger things but this book is amazing and is completely captivating me. It is perfect, exciting, bold and understated.

My business partner, Morganna Magee, is the sort of person I can bounce ideas off forever, which is definitely a form of creative excitement.

Vincent del brouck is one of my favourites, and I have a poster of his in my room I look at all the time.

Belinda Carisle's Summer Rain is also just bringing me unlimited joy. It's an 80s pop banger that manages to be happy, sad and catchy all at once.

The core crew - Barney, Dan, Eugenie and Cal - are always creatives I'm fascinated by, not least because they are wonderful people and their presence makes me better.

Note: be sure check to out Matt's video where het talks about the project.

© Pictures by Matthew Dunne