Giant outdoor retail stores like Cabela’s and Bass Pro are rife with photographic opportunities if you’re interested in hunting culture or taxidermy. Mike Whiteley’s black and white photos of the bizarre scenes in places like these are a humorous but also sad comment on this odd way of experiencing wildlife. My favorite images are those featuring background scraps of text like “pizza,” or impossible combinations of animals for the sake of saving space. The attempted illusion that all of these animals exist together is a bit too ridiculous to believe, even if it is only in a section or along the edges of the store.

From the artist’s statement: Wildlife is important out here in the west. It has been written about, painted, sculpted, and photographed. For as long as people have been here, the wildlife has had an important place in our society. It has been studied, worshiped, feared, and slaughtered. In a modern society, our relationship with it has become more complex. Its existence is now often determined by governments influenced by big money, large corporations, and other organizations. No longer is much of it really wild but exists in small, controlled areas. There are less and less places that are not touched by man.

Somehow, though, we still feel that wildlife is sacred, so much so that even after we kill it for sport, we stuff and mount it and put it on display… We seem to think that we need to control them as if somehow nature doesn’t know what it is doing. In various places in the west, I find displays of these stuffed game animals, interesting enough a lot of them seem to be in stores that sell guns that you need to kill them in the first place. What we are left with are pictures that display a strange contradiction between life and death, real and unreal.

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