Game Camera

observing art through nature

by by Robert Merritt

About a week ago I opened the freezer door to take out a pizza and found my copy of Keith Richard’s autobiography staring up at me. I took it out and replaced it on the shelf next to my bed.  I didn’t really think much of it until I opened the freezer and saw my book again the next day. Had I forgotten to take it out?

This happened for the next three days until I got smart.  I used my game camera rig with its motion sensor to catch myself in the act that night as I slept.  I placed the camera on the wall opposite the freezer and tried to stay up but dozed off inevitably. The next morning I noticed that the camera’s light was blinking, an indication that the camera had been tripped. I printed out the photograph, but it wasn’t me at all. It was my roommate Aaron. I was being pranked. I approached Aaron and he denied it even though you can clearly see Aaron’s laughing face on the left side of the photograph. I can’t wait to get even.

This is a photograph taken with the Planet Optics gx22 motion detection game camera. Unlike the camera I set to watch the freezer, the gh 11, this camera does not have an infrared capability, instead compensating for this inefficiency with an inoffensive low light flash. I set one up in the bear cages I work with because the bears had become increasingly irritable. One large Kodiak Bear had mangled the locking mechanism on the cage so badly that my team and I had to go in and replace the entire door.

This photo is from that day. It seems as if the bear may have damaged the game camera itself, rather than it just malfunctioning. For example, a piece of the housing was dislodged and strangely colored (and these cameras never malfunction).  Also, the timer on the camera was not working, causing it to continuously take photograph after photograph. You can see how bright it is here, even though it was pitch black when we went in to fix the door, this is a result of several photographs layered on top of one another. As mentioned above, we have to go in at night so as not to over stimulate the bears.

I took the camera home to see the printouts and they were unusable.  The following evening, my brother and his wife, Arlene, a prominent artist, came over for dinner.  They saw the printouts sitting on the computer desk and asked about them, so I explained what had happened. Arlene, my sister-in-law, suggested that I submit them to the Rancellier Gallery where she had a commission as an artist.

Arlene explained to me that there was a popular art movement in the 1970s around animals making art: cats made paintings, monkeys took photographs with special cameras and even dogs learned to sew with a harness bell system.  Arlene said that recently there was an increased interest in animal-made art and that my photos would be well received.  I couldn’t believe it. The last part about the dogs is a joke that my son asked me to include, but the rest is true.

I don’t know anything about art and was just going to trash them. I’m glad I didn’t!

Thanks to my sister-in-law Arlene Briggs, I got them published in a magazine and even got some money for the thing.

This is the only photograph not taken remotely. I took this photograph, not a bear. This is my sister-in-law Arlene.  She came with me to check out the facility where I work and to see the bears.  If you look carefully you can see my arm in the bottom left hand corner of the photograph. Here, the bears can be seen by means of a one-way mirror.

This photograph is strange to me because I don’t remember taking it. I am afflicted by bouts of temporary blindness usually brought on by stress.  They can last for a few seconds or a few hours. This photograph was taken during a short blind spell, when talking to Arlene the camera misfired without a sound.  I include it because Arlene said that it “completes the set.”

ROBERT MERRITT B’13 is married with children.