A visual record of the killing of Australia’s wedge-tailed eagles

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Photographer Matt Dunne’s book “The Killing Sink” (Void, 2022) is a searing look at our collective tendency to minimize and ignore things, people and animals that are simply different from us and a riff on how we determine what is or is not “important.”

“The Killing Sink” is ostensibly about the killing of wedge-tailed eagles in Australia. But it’s through this lens of erasing the nation’s greatest bird of prey that we’re led to think about how we treat not just animals, but each other. And the question is for all of us, not just people living near the death of eagles.

Dunne’s photos are by turns majestic and elegiac. The way Dunne photographed the animals in the book establishes an emotional connection to the larger story. They are beautiful, living, breathing creatures that share the planet with us. To understand this is to understand the sadness of the killings.

The following description of the book by the publisher is an excellent entry point:

“Each photograph in Dunne’s book depicts a place where eagles were killed, the animals themselves, or the tools of their destruction. The images are in black and white, echoing the detachment and impartiality of crime scene photography. The title of the book is taken from the term “killing pit”, which is an area created when a territorial animal is killed and, as a result, others of the same species are drawn to the location. The newcomers are then killed and a cycle of killings begins. Collectively, the photographs in Dunne’s book intertwine the birds with the intention, psychology and story of the act of their disappearance, creating visual testimony.

When we degrade the things around us, be it animals, the environment, other people, or eagles, what we are really doing is destroying and denigrating ourselves. Does anything good come from such destruction? These are some of the things “The Killing Sink” floats our way.

Of the work in his book, Dunne says: “Ultimately, my aim is to bear witness to an unpleasant present, brought about by the remnants of some of our oldest and ugliest thoughts: that other forms of lives don’t matter and, no matter the cost, humans should subjugate others.

I often think back to my first experience where I was taught that there are hierarchies in life. It was in the playground in fourth grade that I first learned that the kinds of things you own (e.g. the right pair of shoes) or the cultural references you agree on (“Donkey Kong”, that’s cool!) mattered. Who is the king or queen of the hill? Do you live in a good neighborhood or in the trailer park? These early lessons begin to shape your view of the world and your view of yourself.

“The Killing Sink” is, ostensibly, about the tragic killings of Australian wedge-tailed eagles. But if you step back and internalize the overall tragedy drawn from the actions of a few, you’ll find that Dunne’s message is far more universal, valuable, and relevant.

You can read more about the book and buy it here. And you can see more of Dunne’s work on his website, here.

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