Last week, Some Nice Friends published the interview I did with them recently. I had fun answering their questions–some different ones than I’m normally asked! The interview features a few images from At Rest, Down to Sleep, Cher Ami, and the museum series in progress. They also asked for some photos of my workspace, which I always think is a cool and different thing to see from an artist, although I can’t say mine is too exciting (plus I styled it up a bit and removed the white cat that’s almost always sitting on my desk when I’m processing images). Here are some of the images and an excerpt from the interview. Thanks, Xuxu! Such a sweetheart.
Did you ever encounter strange (or paranormal) events during or after documenting the roadkill?
Nothing paranormal, but I always try to treat photographing animals with sacredness. I thank the universe for this animal’s appearance in my path and hope it had a good life and quick death. Not so strange, but special things have happened—like seeing an elk fallen on top of another deceased animal, or spotting tiny bird footprints in the snow in the shadow of a coyote. One time, I stopped my bicycle on a busy bike path in Denver to move a squirrel off the concrete when I noticed it was still breathing, or trying to through blood. It was such a heartbreaking, unreal moment. I moved it into the tall grass and stayed with it for as long as I could. It died shortly after.
What is the most challenging thing during the process of your work?
It’s difficult for me to keep my anxiety to a minimum when I am photographing dead animals and people are driving or walking by. Plenty of times, I’ve been stopped by police officers and other people asking if I need help, as I’m standing on the top of a 4-foot stepladder on the side of the road. I have such a nervous personality that it’s difficult for me to work without thinking of how out of place I must look, but I try to focus on why I’m doing what I’m doing. Also, so many things are out of my control when I’m photographing. Often, I can only spend about 30 minutes with an animal before I have to move on, so I’m stuck with the lighting and weather conditions that exist. Too many times my flowers have blown away or my hair has been plastered to my face or in front of my lens! I hate wind.
‘Sleeping’ and ‘Dead,’ they share a few similar aspects. From your photography series of Cher Ami, a few of us really can’t tell the animals in it are dead or not as they look so peaceful and delicate. How did you manage to differentiate those both terms in your photography?
This is a part of my image-making that I try to be very conscious of. Being close to animals because of their death feels like a gift, and I want to appreciate their lives and not exploit them. I wanted the images in Cher Ami to feel peaceful and contemplative; the animals in that series are ones I either handled in their life or carried to my home in my own hands. Animals with their guts spilled and skulls cracked by vehicles make me just as uncomfortable as they do other people, and while I do think it’s important to confront this, I like that my images are for the most part ambiguous. Many audiences find pictures of “sleeping” animals beautiful and dead animals repulsive. Sleep is the brother of death, and I don’t think any of it is permanent.
C’mon hint us, what are you currently doing and what’s next for you?
I’ve been working on several projects photographing in natural history museums. I’m interested in the future of taxidermy in these kinds of educational institutions, when museums seem to be pushing digital, interactive displays to cater to the generation of people who are technology-driven from birth. Taxidermy is very trendy right now, but I don’t think that will save it from disappearing from museums and institution collections; many large specimen collections are being given away or put in storage. Taxidermy and the study of animals through death are things I’m passionate about, so it’s been fulfilling to make photographs with these ideas in mind.