After immersing himself in a new and unusual universe for the last two years, photographer Lucas Lenci presents his new work, Still Life, on display and in book form which will be launched at Babel New York in March, and Babel São Paulo in April.
The subject? Reflections from stuffed animals. It all started when Lenci realized that his two sons showed more interest in the exhibits at the Natural History Museum in New York than at live animals in zoos. "Just as the stuffed animals seem to be alive, the idea of living behind bars seems lifeless--they’re always cornered and rarely coming out of their sleeping positions," says Lenci.
Many people collect these animals, but who are the collectors? What is the interest in possessing these objects? With these questions in mind and his camera in hand, Lucas Lenci started to record everything. “It is a private universe, organized and much admired in Europe, which aroused my desire to visually explore something that is not understood by us”, he says.
During the process, more than 100 species of birds were photographed--in museums, shops, and collectors' houses. The series is divided into three parts: the birds themselves, the taxidermy studios (a preservation technique where you use straw to fill and maintain the shape of the skin, size and characteristics of each animal) and the dioramas--paintings that represent the habitats of these animals in the background with the ‘stuffed’ animals in the foreground. “It's as if they all went back to nature after the entire process” said Lenci.”
One example is a hyper-realistic image of several penguins, with the sea in the background and rocks under their feet, which “places them back in real-life”. Photography has the role of questioning what is real in these scenes between animals and the environment.
Although the theme is not related to the other three books by the author - Desaudio, Movimento Estático and Hominini--Still Life can serve as a counter-dialogue with Lenci's last work, ‘Alpha Cities’ from 2018.
“A common characteristic to both is the way I use photography as an instrument of illusion, new truths, and my truth. “It’s the same way that we are doubtful about the birds existing while the city exists, says Lenci.
The partnership with Chiodetto, who edited the book and curated the exhibition, has been long awaited. “We have known each other for 10 years and since then I have deepened my knowledge in photography and in my own art. When I showed him the images for the first time, I could see the enthusiasm in his eyes and I thought 'I did it'!
“Lucas Lenci has shown himself to be an author committed to the investigation of photography as a complex system of representation. His projects aim to unveil the photographic game, revealing a place of experimentation that is beyond the illusory appearance of images. In his previous books, the artist created essays that stressed the silent and static nature of photography. Now, in Still Life, Lenci further deepens this reflection by creating a parallel between photography and taxidermy, leading us to philosophical thinking about the binomials of life and death, existence and resistance, which permeate the reason for the images' existence, the fleeting beauty of birds, and ultimately, ourselves”, says Eder Chiodetto.
“This isn’t a book about biology or information about birds, but an invitation to make us think about ideas like the life cycle, and the collection and the representation of objects”, adds Lenci.