Inspired by Victorian Memento Mori, which were photos that exquisitely posed a deceased beloved family member in their finest clothes and surrounded by their favorite objects, I too pose my subjects in an imagined environment and think of them as Environmental Memento Mori. With each photo, I am honoring and memorializing insects and other small animals whose troubling decline makes their recognition important and poignant.
The alarming decrease of insects, particularly pollinators, motivated the creation of Jenga which was named after the game of stacked blocks that collapse when blocks are removed from the structure. Creating a permanent record of the impermanence of our world fascinates me. Because of this interest, I’ve composed and photographed insects, birds and small animals assembled with botanicals in my studio. These images reveal the clash between the beauty and the precarious state of our world. For Jenga, carefully placed botanical materials, poured colored dyes and the subjects are placed on multiple sheets of glass then stacked to form a tower. The glass layers in the stack are separated by Jenga blocks and can reach a perilous height. Created in camera, the finished assemblage is photographed resulting in an illusion; a fantasy environment that once captured is dismantled and washed away. It’s not hard to imagine our world crashing down like the Jenga blocks in the game that ultimately collapse as the supports necessary to sustain our environment are removed one by one.
All the insects or animals used in creating the photographs were either found in my neighborhood or purchased from a company that claims the specimens for sale were farm-raised and died of natural causes.