Over the last seven years Chancellor has photographed modern trophy hunters – infiltrating the industry that caters for people like Walter Palmer the dentist from Minnesota who on 1 July 2015 wounded Cecil the lion with an arrow from a crossbow – tracked him for 40 hours then killed him with a rifle.
‘I expected to take 21st-century portraits of people who would seem like 19th-century figures’ Chancellor says. ‘But they’re not. They’re the kind of normal people you hear on the news now’.
The series he admits has been profoundly disturbing. ‘I’ve photographed people who have hunted animals in the most callous way who are heart surgeons’ says Chancellor. ‘I photographed one man – an extraordinarily prolific hunter – who ran a pet cemetery business back home’.
What drives them to exert such power over something so free? ‘It’s impossible to say’ says Chancellor. ‘It’s such a divergent cross-section: some are meek-mouthed – some are forthright. Some will cry when they’ve shot an animal – some will pray. Some will drink beer or smoke a cigar. The only thing they have in common is the complete focus on what they’re doing. They don’t doubt it at all.”
Chancellor – who divides his time between Cape Town and London – took long journeys across South Africa for an earlier project on HIV. He became intrigued by the levels of privacy around the reserves beyond the cities.
‘You would just see miles and miles of high fences’ he says. ‘I wanted to know what was going on in there’.