I’m an artist and horror photographer living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My work is somewhat death haunted, focusing exclusively on dark and macabre imagery (usually photographs of dead things). I have a particular interest in the ethics of eating animals and the commodification of suffering. I have explored these themes in my studio work though still life and portraiture work featuring arrangements of dead animals, in addition to close-up abstract work featuring organ meats. More recently I have also been photographing human skeletal remains, which I consider to be portraiture of the dead. I am also broadly interested in feminism and women's reproductive rights, the subversion and sexualization of religious iconography, and pretty much anything weird, surreal, creepy, or transgressive.
Meat as Art
I loved the truth. Even in just this one thing:
looking straight at the terrible,
one-side accord we make with the living of this world.
-Ellen Bass (full poem here)
Like most of us, I was raised with a bucolic image of life on a farm: cows grazing green pastures while chickens scramble about the barn and pigs wallow lazily in mud pits. This image, however pleasant, is a fantasy that exists only in children’s books, and on the graphics that adorn processed food packages. The reality is that contemporary factory farms rely on cruelty and torture on an industrial scale. Most of the animals we consume will have lived lives of intense suffering: confined in windowless sheds, densely-packed into cages where the spread of disease and parasites is rampant, fed additive-laced foods that bear little resemblance to a natural diet, and subject to various surgical mutilations.
It is all too easy to forget about the cruelty and suffering that underlies the animal products we interact with daily, through our meals, clothes, and furniture. My work on the commodification of animal suffering focuses on meat products that are intended for human consumption; I buy everything that I work with at the butcher. My aim is to present these food products in an unfamiliar context, where the ugliness and cruelty of the industrialized farming system becomes manifest. I have three galleries exploring this theme: Inside (a gallery of focused stacked macro photography that looks at animal organs from an intimate, up close perspetive), Still (a gallery of still life arrangements of dead animal parts, loosely styled after Goya, Caravaggio, and other classical still life painters), and Accord (a gallery of portraiture exploring our relationship with animal products).
Empire of Death
I could write a treatise on the sudden transformation of life into archeology.
- Zbigniew Herbert
Empire of Death is my most recent project: a gallery of photographs of human skeletal remains, shot entirely in The Catacombs of Paris. The title of this project derives from the warning that is carved in stone at the entrance of the ossuary: "Arrète! C'est ici l'empire de la morte."
The Catacombs began as a network of old caves, quarries, and tunnels that stretch for hundreds of miles far beneath the bustling streets of Paris. In 1976 they were blessed and consecrated by the church, and used to house corpses from the overpopulated and overflowing Parisian cemetery Les Innocents, many of which had been improperly buried in open graves, leading to concerns over the strong odour of rotting flesh and the spread of disease. In 1810 The Catacombs were renovated to their present form: monumental tablets and archways were added, and the skulls and femurs of the dead were stacked along the walls into the various decorative patterns that are depicted in my photographs.
I think of the images in my gallery Empire of Death as portraiture of a sort; these are portraits of a person absent, of a life extinguished, of what remains when we are gone. What I find most compelling about these images is that even as they depict absence and death and decay, there is still a hint of the presence of life. This presence is felt, for example, in the graffiti tags that mark so many of the skulls -- these are memories not only of the tourists who drew these marks, but they also suggest the hustle and bustle of urban Paris, so many meters above The Catacombs. Similarly, the tinges of green moss and mould that are visible in many images (especially those shot near light sources) are a sign of hope, a reminder that new life is possible, even in a place so marked by death and absence.