Taxidermy and Ethics
While creating one of my first Documentary projects - A Story About a Taxidermist, I stumbled upon a variety of questions concerning ethics.
A place where I decided to film was a very odd shop – with many stuffed animals, strange objects, sculptures, and artwork. The shopkeeper (who engaged in taxidermy himself) was never present and I was always intrigued to see who owns this carefully arranged theatrical set.
When I finally entered with my project proposal form, the shopkeeper, a surprisingly young and friendly man allowed me into his workroom. I wasn’t entering a room as a friend, nor a visitor. My role with a camera was very new and odd to me; while inspecting the surroundings I was straight on hunting for material to capture on film.
It's odd, isn’t it? Often you have no access to people’s personal lives and the next second you are observing, capturing, and even representing them. On top of it all, you engage in asking personal
questions and soon you witness somebody bridging the huge gap between seeing you as a stranger and gently putting their vulnerability into your alien hands.
When you get that access, the importance of making ethical decisions holds huge value. As a friend, you could just ask, listen, laugh, or pat their back. As a filmmaker, you employ many little strategies to form an appropriate bond, where the balance between closeness and formality is established.
At the same time, you possess the qualities of a very empathetic friend, a curious visitor, act as a reflecting mirror, or a doubtful customer. All for the sake of creating an open and stimulating environment and allowing the conversation to happen. While crafting the tone, you also question the right way of transforming this experience into a stand-alone visual piece that could ethically and artistically capture the subject. Establishing your position in terms of an ethical issue of taxidermy itself is also necessary (multitasking combined becomes as intense as working in a restaurant).
This attentive way of engaging with your contributors is something so profound in making a documentary, as the camera deals with real-life people, who can be affected hugely by words, actions, and misrepresentation.
I find that when you engage with those considerations in mind, the formed trust enables you to work collectively. You don’t have to anxiously hunt with your camera anymore, but rather sit back and see the odd world expanding and revealing itself to you and your camera at once.