The leopard's trail
Death in Mozambique

In the autumn of 1962, the 21 year old Christian von Alvensleben started out on his first great journey. With an image of Hemmingway's ‘Green Hills of Africa’ in his mind's eye and a Leica in his luggage he set off for Mozambique.

Once he arrived in the Portuguese colony with its immense animal kingdom he was forced to realize that the paradise he was expecting no longer existed. Hunting parties from Europe and the USA were in the process of turning the landscape into a cemetery.

Christian von Alvensleben captured this dying, this ‘first death’ for him, on film over a two year period. Then he became disassociated from the senseless agony of the wonderful animals, from the perversion of these hunts. He took portrait photos of the rich hunters in the hour of their doubtful triumphs.

In photography von Alvensleben becomes partial. His photographs demonstrate his empathy for and sympathy with the animals. ‘When they are dying, the huge Common Eland are gentle. They simply lie there devoid of aggression - without the will to defend themselves - and cry.’

The black and white photographs taken 40 years ago and carefully reproduced in duotone appear strangely antiquated and reminiscent of photography from the 19th century.

They seem to have been taken from old plates as if creatures were being shown which man made extinct a long time ago.

Christiane Breustedt, Editor in Chief, GEO