In 2017, in the remote South-East of Australia, a man called the police and reported that he had murdered more than 400 eagles over the last two years at the instruction of his boss. The news coverage of the criminal trial for this act was the starting point for artist Matt Dunne to explore the wider deliberate killing of the Wedge-Tailed Eagle. Matt Dunne’s book ‘The Killing Sink’ is part true crime and part a public act of grieving for what has been lost.
Each photograph in Dunne’s book depicts a place where eagles have been killed, the animals themselves or the tools of their destruction. The images are black and white, echoing the detachment and impartiality of crime scene photography. The title of the book is drawn from the term ‘killing sink’, 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 subsequently killed and a cycle of killing is established. Collectively, the photographs in Dunne’s book intertwine the birds with the intention, psychology and history of the act of their demise creating a visual testimony.
Wedge-Tailed Eagles are Australia’s largest bird of prey, weighing up to five kilograms with a wing span of up to 120cm. Although, currently a species protected by the National Parks and Wildlife service, in the past some states offered bounties for their carcasses and it is estimated that more than 300,000 were killed in the decades before the late 1960s. The crime which originally inspired Dunne’s project meticulously recorded the investigation into the loss of life. Far from isolated, this crime—where eagles are trapped, shot, poisoned and killed—is one often repeated throughout Australia with vast distances and remote locations hiding these actions from prying eyes. Although the focus of ‘The Killing Sink’ is one species—the destruction of native species in agricultural interests is global. The book ultimately asks ‘what have we traded? How could it possibly be worth it?’