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The State of Things

Meet Jeff Whetstone

John Marc Diptych
Photograph by Jeff Whetstone
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Late last month Jeff Whetstone premiered his newest artwork. It's a video depicting a turkey hunt. But it's not a documentary. The hunter uses the female turkey's call to lure a male turkey. Then, the hunter translates the call into English. None of what the female turkey says to the male turkey is suitable for public radio. But to hear a confident American man – muscle-bound, tough, armed and dressed for hunting – talk dirty in the voice of a female turkey is to have your sense of gender, species, nature and wildness ultimately confounded. That's exactly what Whetstone hopes to do.

He has been photographing the complicated and evolving relationship between humans and nature since his days as an undergraduate at Duke University. He's spent time in the tobacco fields of North Carolina and in the caves of his native eastern Tennessee. Whetstone’s artwork has won many prestigious awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and is exhibited around the world. When he's not in the field taking pictures or in the dark room printing, Whetstone teaches art and photography at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Today he joins host Frank Stasio to talk about photography, nature, humanity and the art of the turkey call.

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