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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.

Joseph Moore

Joseph Moore

Art that uses publicly viewable webcams (a la Kurt Caviezel) has always intrigued me, yet it often lacks a component necessary in sustaining my interest – animals or nature subject matter. In his series Oversight/Rendered, Joseph Moore engages with web-based cameras to create pictures unlike anything I’ve seen before. Moore’s photographs, depicting a variety of places in the world where animals can be seen and experienced, combine the animal’s relationship to the physical makings of photography equipment, the notion of capturing movement the way Muybridge first did as one of the earliest makers of photographs, and a viewer’s unconscious need to form a narrative to create images that will have you looking for far longer than you might have intended. I have also spent a lot of time with Moore’s statement, which I have read at least a dozen times and continue to glean new information from each time.

From the artist’s statement: “Oversight/Rendered” is a series of prints that begin as digital images taken from unsecured web cameras that feature the lives of non-human animals. These captured digital images are then converted into a negative and printed using traditional darkroom technique on silver gelatin paper. Through this work I wish to foreground the non-human animal and its historical relationship to photography, (pre)-cinema, and certain methods of social control in development since the 19th century.

Both human and non-human activity is instrumentalized in the production of value. These prints engage with “animal” labor on both indexical and iconic levels. The gelatin coating is made from the bodies of rendered animals: from bone, tendon, and offal. As a material that actively influences the sensitivity of silver halides, gelatin is “dead” at the same time that it actively “works” to create an image. This “work,” both represented as an image and as a material substance, recalls a living being, creating a dialectical tension between life and death. This tension in photography is often remarked upon, but rarely with regard to non-human finitude.

The image of the animal within the history of pre-cinema and early photography is common; we find it in Eadweard Muybridge’s horses, Étinne-Jules Marey’s birds, and Anna Atkins’ algae. In the work of Muybridge and especially Marey, photographic devices are produced to dissect continuous time into discrete moments, i.e. the frame. And with the series of frames taken at regular intervals, new methods for analyzing and graphing movement through images are born. Marey would use these methods of analysis to study birds in flight as well as in the service of the French army to increase their efficiency of movement. Later, the industrial engineers Frank and Lillian Gilbreth would employ similar techniques to analyze a worker’s movements on the production line in order to create a more scientifically managed workforce. Though its use of web-based imagery and traditional printing, “Oversight/Rendered” points to the historical overlap between contemporary image-based technology — CCTV, image tracking, biometrics, etc. — and these techniques’ historical precedents. Under this analytic, the labor of the cashier, the gestures of a pedestrian, and the life of the non-human exist to be recorded, graphed, and examined. The banal and the transcendent are distilled into a set of points in time. It is the life-world subjected to the efficiency of a slaughterhouse.

Each print in “Oversight/Rendered” consists of four images downloaded from the same camera feed during a 24-hour period. While certain aspects of the work seek to create historical continuity, others attempt to disrupt any easy narrativization. This anti-narrative aspect can be seen in the non-chronological placing of the four images. Formal devices such as repetition, rhythm, etc. within the quadrant pull the viewer away from the pictoral and into the material surface. I wish to generate a kind of suspension where coherent narrative is subdued, but a relationship between the parts is maintained. Although “Oversight/Rendered” relies on the fragmenting of continuous time into the discreet in a way that echoes the historical examples above, unlike them, it undermines the ordering and control that accompany a kind of “settled” narrative.

Visit artist's site: joseph-moore.com

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Jon Riordan

Jon Riordan

As an artist who spends a lot of time visiting and thinking about natural history museums, something I ponder often is the educational aspect of these institutions. It seems like museums of all types are turning away from the traditional and leaning more toward digital exhibits heavy on the interactive, family-friendly components. I love all the dated materials I can spot in Jon Riordan’s pictures in his series Dinosaurs in the Attic – faded photos, bright paint in primary colors, paper with fold marks and torn corners. Even a dry erase board can be seen as an object from the past. Riordan’s photos make me think about natural history museums’ enduring ability to fascinate and educate young minds, of past generations and those to come.

From the artist’s statement: As a child, museums had an almost magical hold over me. They were these cavernous places of mystery and wonder. They even had dinosaurs! And they looked so big and real. Everything that made a child’s mind race was there: sharks, snakes, lions and even hyenas, those fascinating skulking beasts. So, many years later, it was with great excitement [that] I took a job at a natural history museum in South Africa. Amazingly, as an adult I found an equally magical space. The animals might not look as real, the cracks in the façade are all the more visible to cynical adult eyes, but there is still magic in knowledge and the observable natural wonders housed in these places. So, in my spare time, I would venture around the museum with my camera and try and spot a different kind of magic through the cracks in this façade: the reality of these ancient spaces of learning, research and happy childhood exploration.

Visit artist's site: jonriordan.com

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Joe Mannino

Joe Mannino

More than any other photographic series about hunting I’ve seen, Joe Mannino’s Fresh Tracks makes me feel like I’m there, in the quiet moments or the long stretches of quiet time, waiting for and tracking an animal. I love the way the stillness, depth, light, and colors in the images make me feel like I’m looking into a museum diorama. It’s evident from all of Mannino’s photos that he has a deep and reverent connection to nature. I think picking up on that connection is my favorite thing about looking at photographs.

From the artist’s statement: My life and my upbringing in the landscape have inspired me to make work about the hunting experience. This body of work shows the positives of hunting, the familial bonds, the connection to nature that it provides, and comments on the social and historical impact of hunting. “Fresh Tracks” is a visual record of my experience as a hunter. I am creating this body of work for the same reasons I hunt: for the connection to my environment and my food, because I have a vested interest in the conservation of wildlife and wild places, and to participate in the raw, unforgiving truth of life. Humans and nature are not separate, we’ve separated ourselves. Hunting allows me to understand and acknowledge my role in the ecosystem. Through hunting I am connected to land, animal, and sustenance.

Visit artist's site: joemannino.com

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Brent Watanabe, "San Andreas Streaming Deer Cam"

Brent Watanabe

About the time I was entering middle school, I became curious about computer games and picked up “Deer Hunter 4” on disc for my family’s PC while out shopping with my parents. I definitely could never master the game, and I had very conflicting feelings about it. Really, I found myself wanting to just move around the game’s rendered forests and fields and watch the deer, calling to them and trying to get as close to them as I could. I remembered this feeling instantly when I saw Brent Watanabe’s San Andreas Streaming Deer Cam, a modification of the game Grand Theft Auto V. The project is a live video stream that follows a deer wandering through a virtual world, the game’s fictional state of San Andreas. It’s bizarre and amusing to see a deer that looks like it walked right out of a “Deer Hunter” type game existing, so out of place, in “a man-made world that was designed for criminals to complete missions and heists. The deer cam follows this hapless creature through hostile environments for the entertainment of an online audience. It’s a slapstick but 
tragic situation” (source). The San Andreas Deer Cam is currently offline, but you can watch footage recorded on February 29, 2016 here.

From a statement on the project’s website: “San Andreas Deer Cam” is a live video stream from a computer running a hacked modded version of Grand Theft Auto V, hosted on Twitch.tv. The mod creates a deer and follows it as it wanders throughout the 100 square miles of San Andreas, a fictional state in GTA V based on California. The deer has been programmed to control itself and make its own decisions, with no one actually playing the video game. The deer is ‘playing itself,’ with all activity unscripted… and unexpected. In the past 48 hours, the deer has wandered along a moonlit beach, caused a traffic jam on a major freeway, been caught in a gangland gun battle, and been chased by the police.

Visit artist's site: bwatanabe.com

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Matthew Moore

Matthew Moore

Having grown up in a landlocked state, one of my favorite things about living in Baltimore for college and now an hour away from the Oregon Coast is the presence of the often odd, humorous, and somehow out-of-place depictions of marine life. I always smile and then find myself thinking a lot about them when I see the huge, faded murals of giant sea creatures in the coastal towns I regularly visit. The animals pictured appear both gentle and ominous, watchful, even though they in a way blend in. I was instantly captivated by Matthew Moore’s series Seascapes when my friend Julia Schlosser introduced me to Moore’s work (I also quite love two of his other projects, If Animals Could Talk and Exodus). The photographs, with their starkness and lack of people, go beyond documenting the mural paintings of a particular artist. They represent some of our strange attempts to bring the natural world into our urban spaces, and whether or not that effort is lasting.

From the artist’s statement: The images in this series, entitled “Seascapes,” depict the marine life murals of the artist Robert Wyland. The murals, mostly from the 1980s and 90s, can be found in almost every major US city. They portray whales breaching the water on skyscrapers or peacefully looking over vast expanses of parked cars. Today, in a world saturated by images, they blend into the urban environment like fading monuments to a lost era, and many are being erased from the landscape altogether. To me, they represent a time when, as a society, we resisted the transition to a de-natured life by awkwardly altering our urban environment. By documenting these disappearing scenes, the photographs in this series reveal a vanishing desire to commune with the natural world.

Visit artist's site: moorephotographs.com

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Camilo Ramirez

Camilo Ramirez

When I first saw the work of Camilo Ramirez, I was attracted to the pictures’ coexisting qualities of humor and a concern for the environment. In his series The Gulf, Ramirez “[traversed] a path from the southernmost point of the US in Key West, Florida to the Mexican-American border town of Brownsville, Texas,” spending several years and traveling 5,500 miles of coastal roads along five states to explore the ways in which at the same time the land is revered and its natural resources are abused. In Between Realities, the artist takes a similar look at places where visitors can gain a sense of having escaped the real world and been immersed in one that feels more natural, but is in actuality just as manufactured, synthetic, and illusory.

From the artist’s statement for Between Realities: To suspend our disbelief is to submit to an alternate reality. Theme parks, fairs, zoos, arcades and other physical institutions of entertainment offer just the kind of illusion necessary for this escape. Growing up largely in Florida, where tourism is the state’s largest industry, the cultural emphasis on recreation was permeating and inescapable. I became aware that the allure of these attractions is as present as the willingness to submit to a prescribed experience. By photographing the intersection of a designed fantasy with its necessary facade, I seek to explore how imagination and truth intertwine under the weight of observation.

Visit artist's site: camramirez.com

Found via: Lenscratch

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Peter Brown

Peter Brown

Some time ago, I came across this image by Peter Brown. A lover of birds, museums, Kansas, and tiny buildings that look abandoned, I had to know if the photo was part of a series. What I found on Brown’s website were the bodies of work West of Last Chance and On the Plains. Both feature the open landscape and small towns of the Great Plains. Empty streets with old shopfronts, fields meeting the wide open sky, and quaint, humorous scenes of the Middle West make up both series, the sun shining brightly in almost every picture. Brown’s photographs are lovely and nostalgic, and I wonder how much they have inspired other artists; the images in West of Last Chance were made between 1984 and 2006, On the Plains between 1985 and 1995. The settings and feel remind me of work by Terry Evans, Paul Sisson, Robb Hann, and Andrew Moore.

Visit artist's site: petertbrown.com

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Brooks Dierdorff

Brooks Dierdorff

Brooks Dierdorff is a name that has been in my notes for a long time. In 2012, I saw his talk “Cultural Predators: Photography and Its Relationship to Hunting Culture” at the national SPE conference in San Francisco. His series Trophy has always stuck with me and I’m happy to add it to the site today. Beyond loving the idea executed in this project, I’m so fascinated by the dead animal pictured, literally and figuratively suspended. Its body floating or propped up, its killer having been erased from the picture; its existence prevented from disappearing altogether by the act of photography.

From the artist’s statement: The series “Trophy” deconstructs the prevailing visual codes within hunting culture by manipulating hunting trophy photographs found online. Erasing the hunter from the image reveals the conventions through which animals are objectified, and heightens the visual rhetoric through which humans attempt to dominate the natural world.

Visit artist's site: brooksdierdorff.com

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Jordan Baumgarten

Jordan Baumgarten

I discovered the work of Jordan Baumgarten through Take/Aim, an exhibition in collaboration between Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art and the Northlight Gallery at Arizona State University that was on view this past fall. Included in the exhibition with Baumgarten were some artists I admire, Jesse BurkeErika LarsenBrian Lesteberg, Jason Vaughn, and others I hope to feature soon. Baumgarten’s work explores notions of contemporary American masculinity. I was attracted to his photographs in the series Average Americans of the Right Type, depicting various staples of hunting culture, for their tranquility and unobtrusiveness – qualities unexpected in a picture of a practice so typically associated with “manliness.”

From a statement by the artist, via Fraction Magazine: “Average Americans of the Right Type” is a photographic investigation of masculinity. The title is borrowed from Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography, specifically the chapter “In Cowboy Land,” which is largely devoted to his time spent in the American West. While there, he experiences the ruggedness of the frontier, which furthers his ongoing preoccupation with the construction of masculinity. Throughout his life, Roosevelt sought out and advocated for specific manly acts — things the right type of man would do.

I make photographs that illustrate masculine ritual in the Roosevelt mold, the outdoorsmen’s perspective and experiences, interaction with nature, and community. I don’t photograph grand vistas with men on horseback overlooking valleys. Rather, I see pickup trucks parked in the woods; I see the way a man climbs up a frosty hill with his hunting dogs; I see the warmth emanating as you return home from a winter’s day hike. These are not the glorified aspects of manliness; they are the foundation upon which that glory is built.

I acknowledge that Roosevelt’s and my own notion of manliness is looked upon as being old-fashioned. This romanticized construction of what it once meant to be a real man, with the idea of the right type so narrowly defined, gives me a framework in which to explore my own masculine identity and expectations. I can then begin to ask myself, What makes a man, and what kind of man am I?

Visit artist's site: jordanbaumgarten.com

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Frédérick Carnet

Frédérick Carnet

On the Day of German Unity, October 3, 2014, Frédérick Carnet photographed the family of his future wife emptying their pond of water and collecting its fish. This is a regular occurrence, taking place every two or three years, so the fish can be transferred to clean water and eaten throughout the year. The series depicts one day in the life of a family, meeting around their pond to collect a source of food that will sustain them during the year to come. Despite the displacement of the animals, the moments pictured seem so pleasant, ordinary, and pure. Carnet has created a wide variety of photographic projects, many of them dark or jarring, and I appreciate this group of pictures about a family from Saxony spending the day with their pond and their fish.

From the artist’s statement: This series could be seen as a kind of documentary photographic piece of work, but for me, it is part of a whole photographic process called Chronicles of an Absolute. Since 2009, I’ve been shooting constantly to find answers. Lost in a world I hardly understand, every series I build gives me keys to determine my own personality. I see my photography as a quest to a better knowledge of myself, a way to give up with my fears, my anger, my soreness, my lack of confidence.

Visit artist's site: frederickcarnet.com

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