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MH is a blog and archive featuring artists who are interested in the ways in which humans interact with and experience animals and nature.

Patricia Van de Camp, "My Own Wilderness"

Patricia Van de Camp

Patricia Van de Camp is interested in nature and the lost harmony between human beings and animals. Her images playfully communicate themes of intimacy, vulnerability, and death. In her recent project, My Own Wilderness, Van de Camp makes reference to an old hunting technique, blinding animals with a spotlight. As in the “deer in the headlights” idiom, the animals are standing as statues in the strong light, making them more easily captured by hunters.

From the artist’s statement: In the images… the animals are greeted and admired instead of being harmed. The central theme of “My Own Wilderness” is the loss of intimacy between human beings and animals. The images do have an alienating effect because the deer and the rabbits are not alive anymore; they are stuffed. They are honored by bringing them back into their natural environment and being photographed as if they were still alive.

Visit artist's site: patriciavandecamp.nl

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The Brain Scoop

The Brain Scoop

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to see Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop speak at KU. I’ve been following The Brain Scoop for a long time, actually, since before it was The Brain Scoop. When Emily was working at (and almost single-handedly running, as a volunteer) the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum at the University of Montana, she started a Tumblr blog in order to create awareness and publicity for the specimen collection on the campus of the college where she had been a student. In early 2013, Emily debuted her first episode of The Brain Scoop, an educational YouTube channel that explores the behind-the-scenes work of natural history museums. It wasn’t long before Emily’s endeavor gained attention; six months later, she was hired as the Chief Curiosity Correspondent by the Field Museum in Chicago and continues to host The Brain Scoop from there.

In late 2012, I  was drawn to Emily’s Tumblr as a person who studied photography and was trying to find a way to tie image-making and an interest in animals together in a career, struggling with whether or not to pursue graduate school for museum studies, library science, or something else. Emily had recently finished her BFA in painting at the University of Montana and was then working on a masters in museum studies (she’s put this degree on hold since beginning work at the Field Museum). Emily has been an inspiration to me and many others–a question I always hear asked of her is how she was able to enter the field of science with an art background.

Over the past two years, I’ve started this post again and again, waiting for a break in achievements for The Brain Scoop to make a post detailing them all.  Well, that break hasn’t come yet, but attending Emily’s talk at KU gives me a good point to jump in. Both in her talk and in her videos, Emily speaks with authenticity, enthusiasm, and humor. I don’t spend much time elsewhere on YouTube and I can’t weigh in on the genre of educational videos overall, but The Brain Scoop’s definitely stand out. And it’s not just for the videos’ subject matter, which can include material that does indeed call for a “grossometer,” but for the heart and creativity that goes into them. There are currently 100 videos uploaded, the most popular being Where My Ladies At?, about women in science and sexism in the field and in which Emily reads actual comments left on The Brain Scoop’s videos. Yikes.

Some other posts/videos that have caught my attention:

An assessment of the state of the museum where Emily worked prior to the Field Museum
Recommended reading
When Emily was written about early on by Robert Krulwich
When Emily was featured recently by Cosmopolitan (seriously!)
The morality of preserving found animals versus giving them a burial instead
Emily’s response (and video response) to the NPR article, “Is Collecting Animals For Science A Noble Mission Or A Threat?”

If you’re at all interested in animals, natural history museums, specimen preparation, or entertaining and educational YouTube videos, I guarantee you’ll enjoy The Brain Scoop. Find it on YouTube and Tumblr.

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Sarah Stankey, "Dichotomy"

Sarah Stankey

If you’re a reader of Lenscratch (as you should be!), you’ll recognize Sarah Stankey’s name; she has worked as an exhibition editor and contributing writer there since 2011. It’s through Lenscratch that I discovered Sarah’s work  and I was immediately taken with it, contacting Sarah even though her project, Dichotomy, was then yet to be completed. The series is varied yet cohesive, each beautiful, simply composed photograph exploring different aspects of nature as encountered by humans (also, the sequencing is awesome on  her website). Scrolling through the images, I found myself thinking “this one’s real, this one’s fake, real, fake,” and I stopped and thought how many of the scenes depicted are ambiguous. Whether an experience of nature is “real” or “fake” can be ambiguous in the same way.

From the artist’s statement: Captivated with the natural world around me, the majority of my work revolves around nature and its abilities to expose its ever-changing wonder. Curiosity inspires my work as I consider humans co-existence with nature and how animals are integrated into our lives every which way we look. I often question the authenticity of natural environments because the line between animal and manmade worlds has become foggy.

Visit artist's site: sarahjstankey.com

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Calder Kamin

“State of the Art” at Crystal Bridges

Over the weekend, I made the drive to Bentonville, AR, to visit Crystal Bridges, the Walmart-funded museum of American art that just opened three years ago, and check out the State of the Art exhibition. I’d heard so many good things about the exhibition and a bunch of friends or people I’ve met through MH have work included, so I was really excited to see it. The museum is amazing and I wish I’d planned to spend more time there (sidenote: I learned there was a “drive-through safari” nearby, so instead of using the day to thoroughly explore the museum, I may have been driving around having deer and zebras and camels try to shove their noses into my vehicle). I’d never been to the state before, but northwest Arkansas is beautiful, and Crystal Bridges is located in the heart of the country. The museum invites “visitors to enjoy the natural environment as a continuation of their museum experience” and the architecture of the museum itself is incredible.

I also wanted to see the Audubon exhibition at the museum, and it was very small so I zipped right through it first and then made my way through the State of the Art galleries. There are more than 100 pieces by artists from every region of the US; so much to see. Below are images by artist friends or artists who stood out to me and a few pictures I took on my phone. Be sure to visit the State of the Art website to read about and see images of work by each of the artists included in the show. I’ve never seen an exhibition website quite like this one before.

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Kurt Caviezel, "Animals"

Kurt Caviezel

Kurt Caviezel photographs the world using publicly accessible webcams. He has collections of simply the tail feathers of birds and the blurry, amorphous shapes of flies covering sections of picturesque landscapes, but my favorites are the images of creepy, crawly insects interrupting the frame. The bugs sometimes look as though they’re peering into the camera lens, and sometimes they appear to be giant, monstrous creatures stomping around rolling hills or hovering over pyramids. Caviezel’s webcam pictures are off-putting, humorous, and unique. The publicly viewable cameras are essentially an author-less image-making device, their resulting images made into art.

From the artist’s statement: Netcams document the world – without hesitation. They post images onto the net in an alternating rhythm. Images appear briefly on the screen before being overwritten again and again by subsequent images (these images are therefore authentic and straightforward). Taking a picture by netcam means, that there is no conventional active photographer, who selects the view with his camera. Image sections of netcams at public places stay determined for many years. Also private cams constantly show the same environment.

This is unknown territory in the history of traditional photography too: Suddenly the camera has a thousand eyes. Different lenses get connected to just one camera, which is taking pictures steadily. The local screen assumes the role of the viewfinder, the mouse operates as the trigger, and the netcam becomes the optical device.

Visit artist's site: kurtcaviezel.ch

Found via: Art Photo Index

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Rebecca Norris Webb, "Rearview Mirror"

Rebecca Norris Webb

Rebecca Norris Webb’s The Glass Between Us has always been a favorite series of mine, one I have found myself going to look at again and again. Another more recent project of Norris Webb’s that I continue to come across is My Dakota, an exploration of the landscape she grew up in and an elegy for her brother who died unexpectedly.  The photographs in My Dakota provide an intimate and personal view of the West and illustrate what the space and emptiness there feel like.

From the artist’s statement: In 2005, I set out to photograph my home state of South Dakota, a sparsely populated frontier state on the Great Plains with more buffalo, pronghorn, mule deer, and prairie dogs than people; a land of powwows and rodeos, a corn palace and a buffalo roundup; a harsh and beautiful landscape dominated by space and silence and solitude, by brutal wind and extreme weather; a former Wild West territory where European and Lakota peoples clashed, where cultural tensions still linger; a landscape littered with the broken and abandoned; a place I’d learned to love in all its complexity. The next year, however, everything changed. That spring, my brother, Dave, died unexpectedly of heart failure. For months, one of the few things that eased my unsettled heart was the landscape of South Dakota. I found myself wondering whether loss has its own geography.

Visit artist's site: webbnorriswebb.co

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Daniel Ranalli, "Spiral #9"

Daniel Ranalli

Daniel Ranalli has spent 25 years engaging and collaborating with nature in his artwork. In his Snail Drawings series, Ranalli arranges snails on a beach and photographs the patterns they make as they move through the sand and around rocks. The “before and after” diptychs are fascinating to look at. I find myself amazed by these tiny creatures and the predictability or unpredictability of their movements, thinking about how much time has passed between the first photograph and the second. Such a unique experience can be made with nature if you slow down a little bit and patiently wait.

From the artist’s statement: I tend to think of the snail pieces as a metaphor for the order we establish in our lives, and how the element of chance enters in to affect the result – regardless of how much we attempt to structure it. My rhythm of working is based on the tides, as the snails are sedentary at certain tides. They are much more active on the outgoing tides and typically move toward the sea.

Visit artist's site: danielranalli.com

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PDNPulse

Recent News

Muybridge’s Horse has been making appearances in some great places online the past few weeks.

I did a Q&A with the PDN blog, Pulse. It’s approaching two years since the MH site launched, and the Pulse piece was a nice opportunity to think about why this endeavor is important to me and where it stands almost 150 posts later.

Kat Kiernan of Don’t Take Pictures asked me to participate in the monthly series, Rule Breakers, featuring one “rule” in photography that is seen too often, along with five photographs that violate that rule but are of exceptional quality. I chose Dara Scully and showed a few of her gorgeous black and white pictures.

I had the pleasure of being the guest judge for Feature Shoot’s recent online group exhibition of zoo photographs. It was a joy to spend time looking at all the images submitted and making the final selection. There is such a good amount of animal photography being produced today, all over the world, by many different types of photographers. Be sure to check out the post and look through the thirty-six pictures included.

Finally, keep in mind that you can submit your work or suggest an artist you think would fit in to the MH artist index by emailing me at muybridgeshorse@gmail.com. A description of the work as well as some images (jpegs attached or a link to a portfolio website) in the initial email is just fine. I am always open to collaborations and creative projects and I love receiving friendly hellos.

These are the kind of things I would post on a Facebook page if I had one. I’ve been considering it lately, but until then, subscribe to the feed (I’m a Feedly person, myself) to see posts twice weekly.

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Alec Soth, "Sleeping by the Mississippi"

Alec Soth

I have had Alec Soth in the “heavy hitters” category in my brain for a long time. I don’t think I’d ever seen his work in person before, and his exhibition at MMoCA did not disappoint. It’s amazing how different it can be seeing a photograph in person, a large, gorgeous print, no less, and after years of not thinking about it; the Holt Cemetery image is one I swore I had never seen before, but it turns out I had already included it on MH. I made a post about Soth several years ago when I was first starting to see his photography all over and really loving his environmental portraiture, but also his powerful, lonely, person-less images. I haven’t been able to get his pictures out of my mind since seeing them in Madison a couple weeks ago, so I wanted to revisit some of his series and share more images that I enjoyed here.

Soth might not be an artist you think of as fitting into a space about animal- and nature-themed photography, but I see nature playing a huge role in his work. I honestly think the subject sneaks into many artists’ projects, even without them knowing or intending it to. I have written before about how the presence of animals and nature is unavoidable, and seeing pictures by great photographers that have those qualities I’m particularly interested in is like finding gold nuggets. Plus–artists without MFAs hold a special place in my heart.

These are some of my favorites from the exhibition, and others I loved browsing Soth’s portfolio site the past few days.

Visit artist's site: alecsoth.com

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"Studio Portrait of Funeral Wreath, "Charles J. Van Schaick, Wisconsin Historical Images, Wisconsin Death Trip

MWSPE Conference, Madison

This past weekend was the Midwest region’s SPE conference in Madison, WI. As usual, I went with my buddy, Dan Garza, and we saw some good talks and lots of awesome art. In the tradition of typing up my notes and thoughts about the conference, which is sometimes my sole way of keeping up with the photography community in person, links and images galore below.

 

We arrived in Madison just in time for Michael Lesy’s talk about the Keystone View stereographs. Lesy’s book, Wisconsin Death Trip, was recommended to me numerous times as a student and I recently spent some time looking back and contemplating it (this post’s featured image is one from the book). Especially after recently hearing him on a quite old episode of This American Life, I had been really looking forward to Lesy’s talk.

 

Friday, we started out with talks by Nathan Abramowski and Jason Rutter, Shreepad Joglekar, and Matt Rahner. Abramowski and Rutter shared some gorgeous photographs from their collaboration, reDiscovering the Grand, Joglekar spoke about a show he curated, and Rahner showed images from his beautiful project based in Kansas City, Eminent Domain.

After that, we made our way to MMoCA for the Alec Soth exhibition, From Here to There, where I seriously could not have spent enough time. Back at the conference, we went to Kristin Reeves‘ talk, and then trekked downtown again for the FlakPhoto Midwest Print Show. It was a wonderful exhibition, and so nice to see names from the Midwest that I recognized. From there, we walked to the Art Lofts to see the UW-Madison Undergrad Photography Show, Yours is the last house before the far-off: home, isolation, and the self.

That evening was a talk by the Featured Speaker, Andy Adams. It was so distinct, engaging, and motivating; my favorite talk of the conference. I took a lot of notes, rife with exclamation points. To wind down the night, we went to the Scholarship Show reception, book signing, and open portfolio sharing.

 

Saturday was a short day since Dan and I had decided to go to Chicago in the afternoon. We saw four scholarship winners speak–Chadric Devin, Amanda Carmer, William Knipscher, and Gregory T. Davis–all great! We went to the Members Meeting, then snuck out to hit the road.

 

The conference felt small attendance-wise and I was hoping for more archives-themed content, but I thought there was valuable programming regardless. I especially loved the exhibitions and their accessibility; I think it can sometimes be a struggle to see it all. Madison is such a pretty, fantastic city–I shared a little about the rest of my trip there on my personal blog. Until next time, SPE! New Orleans, anyone?

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