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Road kill. Photo © Stephen Shepherd

Road Kill - Stephen Shepherd, 2013

1 October 2014

This picture of a squirrel’s tail is one of a series of road kill pictures that I took after coming across the body of a Muntjac deer whilst driving in the Cotswolds.

It wasn’t long before I saw all sorts of dead animals at the roadside and on the grass verge. The effect of the impact of the vehicle on the animal’s body was often more disturbing, and visually interesting, than the blood – like a squirrel’s teeth lying beside its body, a fox’s tongue hanging out of the side of its mouth or a rabbit looking as if it was running away but was, in fact, stone dead, with a twisted, broken leg with bone poking through the fur.

As the project grew I persuaded one of the picture libraries I supply to take the work. They asked for more road kill to make a collection.

By the time the project was complete I had friends calling from all over the South West saying, “Hey, I’ve seen a fox at the junction of such and such roads” or “There’s a hare just outside this or that village.” The collection includes many of the common animals we pass dead by the roadside but rarely see alive in the wild.

As I shot the road kill project, I had in mind something a fellow EPUK member once said, that the only pictures that don’t sell are the ones you haven’t taken.

So you’ll be wondering, “Have the pictures sold?” Well, yes, the library sold enough to make me feel I am in profit on the project.

Visually my approach was to treat each dead animal as a still life. The composition was about context and, I often felt, that showing a whole carcass was unnecessary. In fact, I found a close-up often told a better story, especially when viewed as one of a set of road kill portraits.

I used a portable ring flash for consistent lighting, wherever the animal was, whatever the weather. Ring flash also brought a sense of medical photography to the images.

Stephen Shepherd began work as a full-time freelance on the features picture desk of The Daily Telegraph shooting weekend supplement imagery of portraits and features. He also worked for variety of business publications, consumer magazines and corporations.

He moved to Gloucestershire in 2004 and still works a few days a month in London. Clients now include the Times Education Supplement, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times and The Express.

Stephen’s corporate work remains in the editorial style of a press photographer and the work he supplies to libraries is often his most creative.

See more work by Stephen Shepherd

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