Here, photographer Joel Prince offers us a close look at an unusual subject more often reviled than carefully observed: roadkill.

This series began with the arresting sight of a freshly killed deer – so horrific that Prince could not turn away from it, could not leave without taking its photograph. The image shifted his perspective: through the lens of his camera, the grotesque became a memorial to a small, but not insignificant, life lost and a statement about the impact modern convenience has on our fragile ecosystem.

Of the many roadkill photographers across the American landscape, Prince is the only one whose focus is on the freshly struck, keeping the animals’ dignity intact before decomposition sets in.

Beauty and gruesomeness hang in delicate balance in these photographs, their intersection a crossroads beyond the animals’ wrong-place-wrong-time meeting with death and the collision of nature with the modern world.

Dasypus novemcinctus | Nine-banded armadillo Ridgeville, South Carolina

Dasypus novemcinctus | Nine-banded Armadillo | Ridgeville, South Carolina

Taxidea taxus | American Badger Abilene, Kansas

Taxidea taxus | American Badger | Abilene, Kansas

Papilio troilus | Spicebush Swallowtail New Marshfield, Ohio

Papilio troilus | Spicebush Swallowtail | New Marshfield, Ohio

Tamius striatus striatus | Eastern Chipmunk Galax, Virginia

Tamias striatus | Eastern Chipmunk | Galax, Virginia

Canis latrans | Coyote Gilchrist, Oregon

Canis latrans | Coyote | Gilchrist, Oregon

Odocoileus viginianus | White-tailed Deer [Virginia Deer] Athens, Ohio

Odocoileus viginianus | White-tailed Deer [Virginia Deer] | Athens, Ohio

Odocoileus viginianus | White-tailed Deer [Virginia Deer] Guysville, Ohio

Odocoileus viginianus | White-tailed Deer [Virginia Deer] | Guysville, Ohio

Vulpes vulpes fulva | Red Fox Marion, Virginia

Vulpes vulpes fulva | Red Fox | Marion, Virginia

Didlephis virginiana | Virginia Opossum Athens, Ohio

Didlephis virginiana | Virginia Opossum | Athens, Ohio

Cardinalis cardinalis | Northern Cardinal Sardinia, Ohio

Cardinalis cardinalis | Northern Cardinal | Sardinia, Ohio

Strix varia | Barred Owl Ridgeville, South Carolina

Strix varia | Barred Owl | Ridgeville, South Carolina

Sciurus niger | Fox Squirrel Athens, Ohio

Sciurus niger | Fox Squirrel | Athens, Ohio

Proximity_roadkill_13

Turdus migratorius | American Robin | Athens, Ohio

Mephitis mephitis | Striped Skunk Shade, Ohio

Mephitis mephitis | Striped Skunk | Shade, Ohio

Elaphe obsolota obsoleta | Black Rat Snake Sarahsville, Ohio

Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta | Black Rat Snake | Sarahsville, Ohio

Cathartes aura | Turkey Vulture Athens, Ohio

Cathartes aura | Turkey Vulture | Athens, Ohio


JOEL PRINCE is a freelance photographer currently based in Athens, Ohio, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in visual communication at Ohio University. He has worked for various news publications–including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. His personal work deviates from journalism–blurring the lines between documentary and fine art photography–and often focuses on the relationships between humanity and nature.

While working on his ongoing series on roadkill, “Right of Way,” Prince often receives strange looks from drivers passing him as he hunkers over a dead animal with his camera. He has been questioned by local authorities twice, and honked at more times than he can recall.

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