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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.

George Shiras

George Shiras

George Shiras, sometimes regarded as the first wildlife photographer, was born in 1859 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and began photographing 30 years later. A lawyer and politician, it was his passion for hunting growing up that led him to photographing animals instead of killing them–“camera hunting.” Using flash photography and camera trap equipment, Shiras captured ghostly, eerie images of animals at night in Michigan and around Lake Superior. In 1906, 74 of Shiras’ photographs were published in National Geographic (source). In 1935, the National Geographic Society published a two-volume set of nearly 1,000 of his nocturnal wildlife photographs (source). Shiras died in 1942. Last year, a book of his work, In the Heart of the Dark Night, was published by Editions Xavier Barral and can be purchased here.

Source: National Geographic

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Amy Guidry

Amy Guidry

I was instantly drawn to Amy Guidry’s surreal, dreamlike paintings as soon as I saw them. I thought of Josh Keyes, a favorite painter of mine, and Salvador Dali, and I thought of the overwhelming theme the work communicates to me, which is disconnection. Each painting, with high definition and incredible attention to detail (particularly light), is a landscape of disparate elements; some even look like collage upon first glance. As a whole, Guidry’s series In Our Veins illustrates the connections, or lack thereof, amongst living things and the natural world.

From the artist’s statement: The premise of my series “In Our Veins” is to explore the connections between all life forms and the cycle of life. Through a psychological, and sometimes visceral, approach, this series investigates our relationships to each other and to the natural world, as well as our role in the life cycle. Concepts such as life and death, survival and exploitation, and the interdependence and destruction of living and nonliving organisms are illustrated throughout. Using imagery derived from dreams and free association, “In Our Veins” demonstrates these ideas in a surreal, psychologically-charged narrative.

Visit artist's site: amyguidry.com

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Einar Sira

Einar Sira

I find these pictures by Einar Sira so striking. I have spent long periods of time looking at them. They call to mind this Cig Harvey photograph, a favorite of mine. Sira’s series Post Vitam is divided into three parts, Animalibus (Animals), Ales (Birds), and Plantis (Plants); all of the images depict animals or plants, in part or in whole, on a mysterious plane that reads as wet glass or the surface of ice or water. This aspect, along with the subject matter, is disorienting and mystifying.

In the photographs, there are areas of deep black, surprising colors, and pleasant reflections or fragments of plants and the surrounding natural life. Although the pictures are of dead animals, there is a quality of movement, or reference to a cycle. Sira aims “to explore decay and the brutal beauty of life and death as represented through dead birds, animals and plants,” hoping “to be able to convey the inevitability that they, like everything, eventually fade away.”

More from the artist’s statement: “I already knew he was dead because there was a bird on the front porch this morning.” These were the words of my mother after being informed that her brother had passed away.

I was able to document the first dead bird I discovered for over 18 months. I photographed the same bird over and over again, at different times of day, in different light conditions and during different seasons of the year. Since the project was highly personal, I did not show the pictures publicly. To me, it was important to revisit a bird or animal repeatedly as time decayed its small body.

One day I found a dead bird in my garden. When I touched it, it still felt warm in my hands. At the time I was battling depression so subconsciously that I was drawn to images of death. I placed the bird in my small garden pond and began to photograph it. The resulting images affected me profoundly; speaking to me of mythology, of death and serving as a reminder that many birds were important storytellers in Norwegian mythology.

Through photography, I find a connection between the passing of time and my own humanity and vulnerability that resonates within me. Water, which many of my photographs involve, can be viewed as a metaphor for the river of time that runs over the underworld, but also for the beauty, truth and finality of life.

As part of FIX Photo by L A Noble Gallery (LANG), Sira’s work will be on view at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf in London May 13-22, 2016.

Visit artist's site: sira.no

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Jayanti Seiler

Jayanti Seiler

I distinctly remember seeing Jayanti Seiler’s series, Of One and the Other, featured on Lenscratch earlier this year and thinking it was one of the most striking, poignant, beautiful photographic projects I’d seen in a long time. The images of people in a variety of settings interacting with and often embracing animals, living and dead, nearly brought me to tears; they are such moving photos of moments that feel authentic and heartfelt, fraught with the complex emotions of the relationships humans share with animals today. In making these pictures, the artist “spent time among people from a very broad scope of human-animal engagements ranging from falconers that capture and release birds of prey, 4-H youth that auction their livestock for profit and slaughter, owners of exotic big cats, animal sanctuaries that care for abused domestic animals, traveling safaris, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers, taxidermists, and encounters for profit.” In her statement for the body of work, Seiler writes that the series “seeks to inspire consideration of the complexity and depth found in the relationships between animals and humans from all points along a spectrum that spans the chasm from lifesaving to exploitation.”

More from the artist’s statement: [These] images are a critique of the paradoxical framework and disparate representations of our relationships with non-humans; wherein there is the desire to coexist harmoniously, yet control, consume and rule. These have yet to be reconciled, although in the last decade or more there is a growing sensibility and consciousness in Western culture towards animals as equal sentient beings. This work situates within this larger context and I seek to advocate for this essential regard for animals. The photographs as seen together, are a call to revere the natural world while living in a modern one in which the two realms often conflict.

The relationships I depict are meant to be complex and not clearly definable to call upon a greater concern. “Of One and The Other” is an acknowledgment of the myriad contradictions, and the unresolved and intricate borderlands shared by contemporary life and the undomesticated world of nature. I portray, that irrespective of our own biases, within every interaction and encounter, there deserves to be further understanding of our obligations and impact.

Visit artist's site: jayantiseilerphotography.com

Found via: Lenscratch

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Maroesjka Lavigne

Maroesjka Lavigne

The first photos I saw by Maroesjka Lavigne were those in Animal Cabinet, a series about how only experiencing exotic animals in a zoo can lead us to feel disconnected, like they are only characters made to entertain us. The project depicts places or moments where the artist was reminded of this confusing scenario as an adult, and the images are visually stark and have a bizarre air to them. More recently, I discovered Lavigne’s series Land of Nothingness. These photographs are off-putting in another way. They show exotic animals in a vast landscape, alone and centered in the frame or lined up equidistant from each other, as if perfectly and meaningfully placed. The flat lighting creates an ominous feel. As in Simen Johan pictures, the scenes seem otherworldly.

From the artist’s statement for Land of Nothingness: A country named after a desert. One of the least densely populated places on earth. Defined by its rich variety of colors—yet in a forever changing, yet completely barren landscape. Namibia’s landscape draws you in, through a vast brown plain of scorched earth, and steers you over the white surface of a salt pan to finally arrive in the gold tones of the sand dunes. Patience is required to discover the wide range of Namibia’s subtle scenery.

It literally takes you hours, driving though nothing, to at long last arrive at… more of nothing. The sight of other people is rare and only the strategically located gas stations are a reminder of the world beyond. This country is in another time zone—time seems to move slower but it feels more logical, somehow. Captivated by these washed out yet delicately colored landscapes, you can drive for hours. Chaperoned by herds of giraffes or zebras, shadowed by flocks of flamingos, suddenly stumbling upon a family of elephants. The animals look up curiously, but soon forget about you and slowly continue their journey, unhurried by your presence, at their own pace.

Visit artist's site: maroesjkalavigne.be

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Lucas DeShazer

Lucas DeShazer

When I saw one of Lucas DeShazer’s mural photographs (the last in this post) in the Newspace Members’ Exhibition last month, it made an impression on me, and I looked him up online shortly after in hopes of seeing more. I was happy to see that DeShazer’s made a whole series of photographs of murals, many of which I feel like I’ve seen since I moved to Oregon last summer (he also has several other fantastic projects on his site). The pictures reminded me of how drawn I felt to the animal mural I saw on the abandoned Linn Humane Society building a few months ago. I also thought of M. Alexis Pike’s great series Claimed: Landscape.

I really feel like I see these funny animal and nature murals everywhere–maybe it’s just since discovering DeShazer’s work. Now they’re some of my favorite things to spot as I drive around exploring the Portland area.

Visit artist's site: lucasdeshazer.com

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Frances Alleblas

Frances Alleblas

Frances Alleblas’ charcoal and pencil drawings, prints, and watercolors depict characters of a disquieting, dreamlike world. In her work, the artist explores human existence and the relationship between the self and other. The protagonists in Alleblas’ narrative artworks, whether human or animal, are “enigmatic, elusive and seem absorbed in another world.” I find Alleblas’ drawings and paintings mysterious and affecting, and not unlike the two-dimensional work of the great Kiki Smith.

More from the artist’s statement: The drawings cannot be reduced to one literal meaning. No matter how well the different elements in each drawing can be described, the drawing as a whole cannot be captured in this way. Although the work has a definite clarity, the viewer remains uncertain and does not seem to get a clear answer. This is mainly because of the often-unexpected combinations of used images in one piece of work; fused elements that come from different origins. In a subtle way, the rational order of things is destabilized. The pleasure of surprise, that takes the work away from expectations.

Visit artist's site: francesalleblas.com

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Luis Barbosa

Luis Barbosa

“We have become accustomed to thinking that man is at the peak of all possible evolution, that Nature is the scenario and we the leading actors,” writes Luis Barbosa in the statement for his work, Verticalmelancholia. In this and his other project, Return, the artist investigates the relationship between nature and man, particularly critical environmental issues. Barbosa’s photographs of the natural world through a ripped “suffocating membrane” symbolize our “cry of urgency for what is natural, an escape to Nature, reframing our own existence.” The images in Return remind me of Rebecca Reeve’s Marjory’s World; both series represent a portal from one realm into the wild and the natural.

More from the artist’s statement for ReturnThe need for an ecological reasoning becomes essential as the protection of Nature for the following generations turns into Man’s major concern. Human evolution’s unbalanced effects lead to internal revolutions within human condition and nature themselves. We breathe and we see. These processes, being mechanical, are minimized in their own vital importance. In a fast, packed and polluting society, the claustrophobic and blurring effects are amplified, also in attitudes and consciences.

Visit artist's site: luisbarbosaphotography.com

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Angela Sairaf

Angela Sairaf

Of her work, artist Angela Sairaf writes, “Consciousness is the key to escape geographical confinement. When one has no place, but permeates the Universe, the concepts of near and far away disappear.” Sairaf’s pictures seem at the same time vastly open and unsettlingly confining. There’s an abstract quality to several of the pictures, and I can’t quite orient myself in them. The fog and snow depicted are quieting, like a boundary that’s penetrable but mysterious. The series, entitled now + here = nowhere, speaks of boundaries and boundlessness, using what I think of as one of the strangest of the ordinary weather conditions to describe nature’s ability to mystify.

Visit artist's site: angelasairaf.com

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Margaret LeJeune

Margaret LeJeune

I am so excited to share the work of today’s post, Margaret LeJeune’s The Modern Day Diana. I met Margaret at an SPE conference in Lincoln, Nebraska, a couple of years ago and was immediately drawn to her pictures, which explore issues of constructed gender, sexism, power dynamics, and stereotypes. In The Modern Day Diana, the artist used a 4 x 5 camera to capture portraits of female hunters across the United States. The images instantly fascinate not only because they depict something we rarely see, but because they depict a twist on something we frequently see. I love this representation of women who defy multiple stereotypes. The subjects of Margaret’s photographs appear genuine, comfortable, and confident, women who are proud of their accomplishments and their home or their space, defying the norm while simply embracing the things they are passionate about. See Margaret’s new series, The Female Mariners Project, for more fantastic pictures in a similar vein.

From the artist’s statement: Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt. She was praised for her strength, athletic grace, beauty and hunting skills. Her vigor, health, and strength were admired and her protection was sought for young children and women in childbirth.

This series explores the modern notions of women hunters and the issues of gender, power and representation. By photographing in each woman’s home or hunting lodge I create a dynamic that questions the relationship between the domestic sphere, traditionally the women’s place, and the hunting world, typically a masculine realm. The attributes of Diana, that of the bow and arrow, hunting dog, stag and animal pelts, further express this dichotomy.

Visit artist's site: margaretlejeune.com

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