In the last few years, the independent UK publisher Archive of Modern Conflict has released a fine streak of photobooks, from their handsome collection of Kodachromes, The Corinthians; to Larry Towell’s exquisite variation on the family album, The World from my Front Porch; to Nein, Onkel, a collection of snapshots that supposedly gives us a look at the "warmer" side of Nazi Germany. The Kodachromes of More Cooning with Cooners may at first glance seem a more focused sequel to The Corinthians. But the second glance is telling.
The discomfort with which I type or even shorten the title is the first sign that this is not your ordinary collection of vernacular photography. The title is based on a 1924 book called Cooning with Cooners, on the culture of Ohio raccoon hunters. The phrase is seen early in this book, emblazoned on a trailer hitched to a station wagon, in front of which one proud hunter poses with this hound. The photographs gathered here were made by one such hunter who worked through the 1960s, which places it in a context in which the changing world outside them seems to have had little effect on their language and bloodlust. It is a cruel tease that the book opens with a photograph of two playfully alive raccoons, for the rest of the book documents the plundering of the animals (if not, as the accompanying essay points out, to their extinction, as the buffalo), and the dogs and men who hunt them for their pelts.
What the photos lack in sharpness and technical prowess (flash lights glow from racoon, hound, and human eye alike), they make up for in cumulative power: this is what hunting looks like, from suiting up, to dog prep, to the chase, to the kill, to the season’s total. The fact that a 1924 poem called “Dat Scanlus Coonhunt Itch” is used to place the photos in historical context increases the unease, but it is almost overkill - the spirit of the times may not be spelled out in the photos, but you can see between the lines well enough.