For her series Natura Morta, the Russian photographer Maria Ionova-Gribina gives burials to dead animals. Much like fellow artist Emma Kiesel, she finds her deceased subjects abandoned on roadsides. Biking to the sea in summer, she was confronted with roadkill and creatures who had died of natural causes.
Where most might avert their eyes, she examined the called bodies, adorning them with fresh blossoms tenderly picked from her own garden or nearby flower beds. Yet she does not remove or bury the remains; instead, she allows the process of photographing them to stand in for funerary rites, poignantly preserving them in her lens instead of in the earth.
After having these powerful post-mortem portraits taken, the animals are once again vulnerable to the decay and ravages of death, but in this single magnificent instant, their humble yet miraculous existences are celebrated and revered. Juxtaposed against bloodied muzzles, open wounds and limbed stiffened by death are ripe, vibrant flowers symbolizing life and rebirth. On these breathtaking beds of pink, blue, and deep red hues, the creatures appear to be simply sleeping.
Over these dead bodies, we are invited to mourn the individual as well as the fact of our own lost innocence. The series itself is inspired by Ionova-Gribina’s childhood, when she and her brother would bury dead animals they discovered in their paths. Where the adult gaze scans over reminders of death, perhaps the child’s engages with them, and grieves the inevitable hold of mortality. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)
At the grave of a fallen soldier stands a pale white horse, regal and majestic, with his mane in tight braids. In Anima, the photographer Charlotte Dumas delves into the quiet moments in the lives of burial horses, known for participating in the funeral ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. The magnificent equine creatures— who by day serve as living manifestations of moral ideals, patriotism, and righteousness— are caught by Dumas’s lens in nighttime moments of introspection and rest.
After the flags are folded, after the firearms have rang out, the horses remain in their small box stalls, resting on humble beds of shavings and hay. Shot under Dumas’s gleaming twilight lighting, the animals are pictured in the final minutes before sleep. In stark contrast with the colorful visions of their burial services, they are bathed in a moody Rembrandt-esque glow that streams in from metal bars, seemingly retreating into an unknowable equine psychology.
Yet within these peaceful moments, Dumas captures an anxious sense of unrest. A horse’s glinting black eye remains open as he twists his neck, revealing waves of muscle under short-clipped fur; a long nose, its hair worn away by a bridle’s noseband, pokes out into the light, emerging from sleepy darkness. The neck and back of the creature is fixed in the frame, isolated from the rest of the body, as he goes to stand upright, his withers stained with manure.
The horses range in age: some wear the grey fur of youth, while others are pure flea-bitten white. Seen here, it is as though the horses cannot escape the atmosphere of the cemetery, confined within their dark stalls forever by some invisible knowledge of death. Take a look.
Stung by the human desire to avert one’s eyes from death and decaying bodies, Emma Kisiel presents Down to Sleep, a series of images that—-like her other series At Rest– forces us to kneel in mourning over the bodies forgotten dead animals,. As she happens upon an animal, she crouches down, fixes each within a compassionate and gentle frame, immortalizing each in a way evocative of Victorian post-mortem photography, each appearing as if he is merely asleep.
Kisiel’s subjects, their lives affirmed and dignified despite their tragic and lonesome deaths, are afforded a painfully loving final farewell. Through their passings, their bodies are sectioned off and dissected by the artist’s frame, leaving only the most poignant physical markers of a meaningful life; with each patch of fur, each tooth and eye, each clasped claw, the viewer is permitted to examine the creature with a balefully sensual intimacy.
Viewers are invited to engage with each animal in a funerary ritual free of any artifice that might make their demise more palatable; they aren’t embalmed, stuffed, or even buried. The are left, haloed in nature’s humble offerings of grass or pebbles, in the exact place and time at which their lives were taken; as time passes, we recognize that these sleepy bodies will disintegrate.
Each animal subject, shot in natural light, offers an honest rendition of death, for as hard as the Kisiel’s camera might work to give meaning to a life lost, it also relentlessly reminds us that discarded bodies will inevitably be vanished and consumed by the earth. But perhaps this is the most compassionate way in which we can examine the dead, as eventually forgotten yet eternally potent reminders of the preciousness of life; in these happenstance grave sites, a simple but meaningful meditation on existence take place. (via Lenscratch)