Artist's Statement

Mélanie Wenger

I land in Texas in January 2018 with a suitcase and no return ticket. I plan to cover the yearly Dallas Safari Club Convention. There, I come across Erik Grimland. He is American and owns a ranch filled with exotic game in northern Texas. He is aware that people do not like what he does, but does not care much. He allows me to explore his peculiar relationship with nature and lets me document his ranch. There are 500 ranches like Erik's in Texas; 62% of them offer commercial hunts, others specialize in breeding animals. In the last 10 years, exotic game hunting has grown to a billion dollar industry in the US. The ranch owners pose as protectors of nature, while simultaneously killing protected species. They claim hunting exotic animals helps support their conservation—breeding animals that are in danger of extinction in their natural environments. I spend 3 years documenting the daily life at the ranch and Erik's family throughout Trump's presidency. My experience following hunters in Africa and anti-poaching teams make my presence considerably easier. Not ever do I promise a biased coverage of any kind, but I guess time helps me to blend in. Eventually I get the access I never thought I could have. I photograph the entire industry, following animal translocations and entering the biggest ranches in Texas. Son and heir of an oil mogul, Erik had many lives, in one of them he was an Amarillo policeman. Like all the characters of the story he is a Trump supporter. Our discussions raise some highly political issues. Climate change denial, pro 2nd amendment, pro-life, racism, 'back the blue', a touch of conspiracy theories. Sugar Moon is the schizophrenic story of the exotic game industry. Deep in the southern gun culture, it draws an intimate portrait of Trump's America.