Tanya Linnegar
Experience life...record the journey.

About :The Lion Catchers

This project arose out of my desire to explore  the relationship between image and reality, between perspective, space and time. Taking many photographs from different perspectives and at slightly different times of the same subject  and then forming this  singular composite from these images was my attempt to better mimic the way in which human vision and experience operate. 

Greatly influenced and inspired by the work of David Hockney,by Cubism, by Photomontage and Dadaist collage, I have realized that a single image or perspective cannot convey time, space, movement and narrative very well. A single photo or image merely expresses a single instant. I wished, thus,  to attempt to blur the boundaries between the tangible print or prints and the intangible experience.

 This work was a collaboration between myself and my partner, Patrick de Moss, who is a writer, playwright and poet. I asked him if he would allow me to photograph him while he wrote a poem.I left the subject matter of the poem totally up to him. My initial thinking in approaching this work was that I was exploring a behind- the -scenes look at creativity and the hard work that goes into honing any artistic skill.  At the time I did not know he was writing a poem about us and our relationship. After I read the poem, I was struck by the fact that this project had become SO much more than I anticipated initially.  Whilst I was attempting to capture the essence of his being through the medium of  visuals and photography, he was at the same time trying to capture the intangible essence of our relationship through the medium of writing and poetry. 

The poem written by Patrick de Moss references Dr David Livingstone who was a Scottish/ British mid to late 1800's missionary and explorer credited with the "discovery" of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, Africa. He explored the African interior to the north and was the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders") waterfall -which he renamed Victoria Falls after his monarch, Queen Victoria.

Perhaps one of the most popular national heroes of the late 19th century in Victorian Britain, Livingstone had a mythic status. His fame as an explorer , missionary and anti-slavery crusader helped drive forward the obsession with discovering the sources of the River Nile . This culminated in the classic period of European geographical discovery and colonial penetration of the African continent.

Livingstone was supposed to be sending letters back to England on a regular basis and those letters failed to arrive as he continued his expedition and exploration. Of the 44 letters he sent over a 6 year period, only 1 reached Zanzibar and then carried news back to England.He had completely lost contact with the outside world and was very ill for 4 of those 6 years. Because of the failure of the Zanzibar expedition, it became necessary for Britain to find Livingstone. They contracted H.M Stanley ( another noted 18th century explorer) to go and find Livingstone. 

After finding Livingstone , the meeting gave rise to the popular quotation "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?". To which Livingstone  responded "Yes", and then "I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you." These famous words may have been a fabrication, as Stanley later tore out the pages of this encounter in his diary… However, the stiff upper lip and tongue in cheek exchange between Livingstone and Stanley whether falsified or actual became iconic within the Victorian English idiom. The words are humorous because Dr. Livingstone was the only white person for hundreds of miles when Stanley found him!

David Livingstone died in Chief Chitambo's village at Ilala southeast of Lake Bangweulu in present-day Zambia.  Britain wanted his body to give it a proper ceremony, but the tribe would not give his body to them. Finally they relented, but cut the heart out and put a note on the body that said, "You can have his body, but his heart belongs in Africa!"Livingstone's heart was buried under a Mvula tree near the spot he died. His body together with his journal was carried over a thousand miles by his loyal attendants to the coast and returned to Britain for burial.

The poem references the Livingstone/ Stanley events as well as "the smoke that thunders". The speaker in "The Lion Catchers" poem is a fictionalized Dr Livingstone speaking to a feminized H.M Stanley.

Exploration and discovery are often the tropes by which one describes a romantic relationship - either through "finding" a special someone or "discovering" the strong bonds between one and another. That self and other situation, the negotiation through it is, as it should be, an endless quest of self-and-other discovery, the source for which is perhaps not as important as the search for it. Using Stanley and Livingstone here more as archetypes than as historical figures (as the implications of Stanley's reputed brutality to his "slave" porters would severely problematize the piece) the poem moves away from being a historical piece, and becomes more a personal one. I am  South African and much like Livingstone, I feel my heart  belongs in Africa. The accounts of the meeting, Livingstone's attack by a lion, the setting of the piece (Africa being the place of Livingstone's missions and H.M. Stanley's descendants) become grace notes to a poem about discovery, re-discovery, and the explorations therein.

The poem alluded to in the last stanza with the lines "on homely fare we'll dine" and "for that an' a that" is the famous Robert Burns song "A man's a man for a' that" which, apart from being Livingstone's favourite tune for most of his life, is a composition to the hope of an egalitarian society.  

-Tanya Linnegar, Vancouver, February 2013

To  read the poem "The Lion Catchers" please click on the following link: http://linnegarphotography.4ormat.com/poem-the-lion-catchers

To view the images for this work please click on the following link: Photos: "The Lion Catchers"

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