Jim Sienkiewicz's Blog

Jim Sienkiewicz's thoughts on his own and others' photography

Witness to the End of Animals

I captured these three photographs hundreds of miles and years apart from each other, but they share something conspicuous in that they record different animals at varying points of death. Quite morbid I realize but also one of those subjects which most people choose to pretend isn’t an essential element and process of life. If you take a look at a photographer like Frederick Sommer’s work with dead animals in the deserts of Arizona, one notices that he treated them as formal and abstract designs. Even though the viewer can never ultimately disconnect the photographic reality of the specimen’s fate from even the most concentrated of compositions like one can with classic still lifes in painting, the use of these formerly animate beings wasn’t for shock or pure exploit. There is something of a beauty in death (especially when we are not personally connected to that which has passed) and those persons who chose not to shy away from it are not necessarily the overly morose or disturbed individuals that would easily fit those societal categories. Consider Andy Warhol’s 1960’s silk screens of car accidents appropriated from newspaper headlines and that artist’s message is delivered quite literally: we all slow down to get a look at the gore.

Skull Valley, Arizona, 2010
Dead Horses, Skull Valley, Arizona

Tehachapi Mountains, California, 2009
Dead Cat, Tehachapi Mountains, California

Russian River, California, 2012
Deer Skull, Duncans Mills, California

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