Christophe Canato’s Insect Bounty Hunting Trophies Vol 1 is on at the Fremantle Arts Centre from Tuesday, April 7, til Sunday, May 24. 

Confronted with the title Hunting Trophies Vol 1, one calls to mind any number of grand-scale stuffed moose-head plaques and bearskin floor rugs decorating the warmly lit salon of a seasoned North American big game hunter. What one doesn’t expect is a series of close-up insect photographs in the light-filled corridors of the Fremantle Arts Centre.

However the title Hunting Trophies, artist Cristophe Canato insists, is integral to the work. “There are lots of symbols inside the title. We can imagine these huge things on the wall. It definitely has that idea of something we want to catch and kill and have control over and exhibit as something we’re proud to have killed, but also as something which is beautiful enough to be presentable and exhibited on our wall.”

With insects as his trophies French photographer Canato pushes the conventions, questioning which species do or do not qualify as worthy of ‘hunting’, as well as drawing on the very direct and visceral response human beings have to insects in general.

“These hunting trophies are a little special because they are not the hunting trophies we can see on the wall normally. The photographs are about a fascination with these kinds of species, insects in this case, which are normally something that can be very repulsive for humans but also very fascinating and attractive.”

Having studied art in France at Beaux-Arts, Grenoble, Canato’s interest in contemporary art has since taken a backseat, while he pursued a career in the fashion industry. Working as a commercial, contemporary dance and fashion photographer for many years, he has been able to develop his technical skills, and gain a greater understanding into the nature of the medium. But his passion for contemporary art is unwavering, and this exhibition merges both his artistic and technical capacities.

The insects are photographed in the palm of a human hand, and appear to levitate mysteriously. This flesh background, coupled with the insects’ apparent floating adds to the photographs’ complexity. The warm light given by human flesh removes the photographs from a biological context, making for a somewhat more comfortable confrontation for the viewer. 

Yet the juxtaposition of the human with the insect highlights the vulnerability of the subjects, but also heightens the sense of discomfort and repulsion at the thought of these alien creatures in direct contact with the hand. It draws attention to the contradiction between what is alive and dead, which is further confounded by the ‘levitation’ of the insects, which imbues a sense of life in them, despite the title suggesting they are dead, objectified now as trophies.

Heightening this complexity even more is the fact that Canato stresses he doesn’t kill any of the insects, but collects them already dead, and that the title Hunting Trophiesmeans less to him about hunting, but more about “relating to the collecting, the actual act of going out and finding the insects.

“The idea is not to be comfortable, the idea is to have all these ideas – attraction, repulsion, fear, control, fascination.

“So it’s a personal approach but it’s also very general. All of my work I try of course to involve some personal sentiment, but I think it’s definitely, with all my work, a story for everyone. It can be everybody’s story at the same time.”

Claire Krouzecky