A few days ago, I got an email from a new friend telling me about the work of Catherine Chalmers; he’d discovered it listening to old episodes of This American Life (and that’s how I found myself spending my Friday night listening to 15-year-old podcasts).  Listening to the artist describe how she makes the photographs and how she feels about them is fascinating.

I think this is a complex group of images.  In an interview with Jakob Schiller on Wired.com, the artist states, “I’m interested in investigating how we relate to nature from a cultural perspective.  I feel that somewhere through the march of time we’ve placed certain animals and insects in nature on another level. They’ve been walled off.”  It’s true; I had to think about it for a while before I decided whether or not a warning of disturbing images was appropriate for this post.  Do images of insects eating other insects or of small, “ugly” animals eating other small, “ugly” animals disturb one less than those of giant cats ripping apart hoofed-animals?  More?  Why?

I also appreciate the thought that, to me, this series instigates: insects are a great source of food but humans generally consider them inedible.  They gross us out.  How do we decide what animals are socially acceptable to eat and what animals are not?  It’s elaborated on a bit in the Wired interview.

From the episode: When I first thought of this project, when it first dawned on me, what I was kind of fishing around for, it kind of made my stomach hurt. The idea of raising animals to be eaten, to photograph them specifically to be eaten, was repugnant and made me kind of sick. But the more I thought of it, the more interesting I thought it was.  Paul Tough states, “If there were two emotions competing in Catherine Chalmers, her fascination with the food chain and her disgust with what she was doing, it becomes clear to me, as she shows me her work, that in the end, her fascination won out.”

So, yes, here it is:


And you can stream that This American Life episode (or read the transcript) here.

Visit artist's site: catherinechalmers.com