Pixels of brown, sand and red heather marks the contours of a blurry landscape. Some dots of green colors are surrounding a grey brown silhouette with pointy ears and a low tail looking directly at the camera; relaxed but at the same time alert. A circle shape lights up the creature. If you view the photograph from a far it looks like a vague image of the full moon.
On the 14th of November 2012 a group of ornithologists went on a trip to the Nors Lake in the national park of Thy in Denmark. During their watch for birds they spotted a large animal unfamiliar in the Danish landscape. One of the bird watchers caught the animal on the build in camera lens on the binoculars from a distance of 800 meter. They described the sighting as a wolf like creature.
The images shot by the bird watchers camera was shortly after published by most of the large media houses in Denmark. The photographic documentation was too inconclusive to verify if the photographed animal was a wolf or not. The news soon became one of the top stories in the media and a bounty from the Natural History Museum of Denmark was promised if anyone were able to provide photos or live recordings of the animal. The published photographs were presented as a triptych and the three images had clear photographic characteristics in common: The motive showed an animal seen from a long distance. The use of a strong tele lense in the digital photographs made the images blurry and pixelated. The animal was lit up in the middle with by a circular shape, highlighting the important part, or otherwise marked with a red circle. There would be no doubt that something important was to be found in the photographs. Indicators showed a digital processing of the images before published by the media. The headlines that accompanied the images seemed to highlight that we should be in doubt of what we saw in the pixelated photographs.
Here are some typical headlines from three different news sites in Denmark dating back to late October 2012: “Is it a wolf or a mysterious hybrid?” “The wolf is loose – or is it?”, “Mysterious animal attract attention. Is this a wolf?”.
It may seem like the image created a doubt on what we where seeing, which led to a choice of headline that enhanced this uncertainty – creating a mystery for the viewer. Was it a wolf? Was it a strange hybrid? Or was it just a loose domesticated dog causing a lot of attention?
The wolf looks almost the same as some domestic dogs, and it can be difficult to discern the two animals from one another in terms of photographic similarity. That created a particularly intense experience of strangeness. The power of the strangeness in the motive can be related to the uncanny feeling that arises when something so familiar to the human psyche becomes so unclassifiable.
“Entre chien et loup” is a French expression for the twilight hour but it also translates: “between dog and wolf”. At this specific time the familiar becomes strange, lightness turns into darkness and you cannot rely on your senses and the domesticated becomes part of the wilderness.
In this case it could be the similarity with the dog but also a disowned cultural past that haunts the viewer in terms of the wolves’ miserable faith in Danish context.
The reactions and emotions that occurred when looking at the photograph might not only be a result of what was thought to be present in the motive, but could also relate to the materiality of the digital images themselves.
The text combined with the images had a clear resemblance to the photographic material of cryptids. The cryptids are animals whose existence or survival is disputed or unsubstantiated, such as the Yeti or the Loch Ness monster. Contrary to popular belief, cryptids do not have to be supernatural, mythical or even all that strange – though many popular creatures acquire these characteristics as their legend grows.
The images depicting the claimed cryptids are often characterized by being presented as unsharp and blurry with the use of a tele lens. Usually they are cropped heavily in after hand, which intensify the blurriness. A highlighted circle often points the eye in the direction of the unknown factor in the images, leaving the landscape surrounding it secondary.
During October 2012, there was no evidence that could confirm the existence of the creature, and therefore the animal gained a status, or was given the same characteristics as a cryptid or a hybrid the following weeks. The parallel to cryptid photography in the image quality could be a key factor in why a similar hunt for the animal was seen performed by the public after been presented for the blurry images. Instead of a bounty hunt for killing the animal as seen earlier in Danish history, it was now a hunt with the camera for new image material.
Contrary to images of cryptids, no one seemed to question the authenticity of the photograph itself. Instead the question of authenticity was directed at the depicted creature.
It seems like there is an aspect of the photograph, which somehow makes the imperfect quality more believable as evidence. The photograph of the creature was published not only in printed form in the newspapers, but also at the different news sites online. Everyone at home could take part of the sighting. The image became a part of your scroll, gaining new contexts from different users.
By using your hands on a touch screen you can use the zoom effect to get closer to the creature. This image existence depended heavily on the display and the interaction with it. The animal is developed in the material interaction with the hand, using a variety of senses, but also at the same time in the conception. The pixels dissolve the creature but contradictory it makes it more ”real” in a way. The resolution becomes a part of the creature itself. It becomes a trace of something we try to perceive, something we cannot fully grasp with our visual sight. Is it the creature or the photograph that appears as a hybrid? A lot of lost information is processed when looking at traces or pixels – and leaving an open space for spinning your own narrative.
The category ‘hybrid’ represents what is difficult to categorize. The hybrids often get the role of the intrusive creatures that cannot be included in a systematic classification. Because of their transcendence in form, they are categorized qua categorization. They seem disruptive to the order and structure, because they cross the boundaries and norms by accommodating several categories. Because of that they are seen as dangerous and cannot be controlled or decoded.
The hybrids appear in times of crisis and inhabit the margins of the world: the periphery of culture, the borderlands and the margins of the system of classification.
Because the hybrid is to be found in the dark, unknown and marginal areas, it has the opportunity to see the world in a different way, in a new light and to rearrange the existing classifications. The wolf creature certainly became a representation of hybridity back in 2012. The lack of classification and form due to the photographic materiality somehow made it a hybrid. During the search for it, it was to be found in a liminal space, where narratives were yet to be told. The unclassified, pixelated photograph became a white sheet reflecting back on our own nature, longings and fears.
Despite the furious hunt – no one captured the creature with their cameras, and to this very day the three images shown are the only recordings of the animal that exist. If it had not been for an attentive forest worker – the animal on the photographs could have stayed a mysterious creature or hybrid, which possibly would gain even more myths with the time passing.
On November the 16th 2012 a large group of ravens gathered in the Nature Reserve Thy near the Norse Lake. A forest worker observed them from a distance, and decided to take a look at the scene, since this gathering of ravens might be a sign of some form of prey or food. He found a cadaver of a wolf-like animal on the ground.
The carcass of the canid was shipped to Copenhagen for further investigations. The media in Denmark closely followed the found – could this be the mysterious creature from the bird watchers camera? The autopsy was conducted by the Danish Veterinary Institute in front of media cameras, showing the creature being torn to bits unceremoniously. The animal apparently died of natural causes. The first anatomical analysis of the carcass failed to give an answer of weather it was a wolf, a hybrid or a dog. They decided to make a test of the genetic material – turning the animal into units of DNA data. The creature could not be identified as a whole – It had to be split into atoms.
Just like the physical remains of the animal, the photographs depicting the animal, as a whole could not bring any classification either. The image clearly showed the small units or fragments of a digital photograph – the picture elements. They are traces of light and traces of reality of the creature in the Moorland. The pixelated image was suggestive and somehow invited the viewer to interact and interpret – tracing the mysterious creature in the circle, a Canis Lupus, later known as the wolf “UH8”.
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