Still Life with Clock and Crucifix by Neal Auch

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They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. — John 19:17

This new still life composition is, perhaps, a bit off season. Easter would have been a better time to be displaying a vanitas style image that references the crucifixion. That being said, the themes of mortality and transience that undergird this composition are fairly universal — both in my work but also in the human condition — so I feel like it still makes sense to share the piece.

Vanitas still lifes frequently employ visual metaphors that make reference to the passage of time. The candle is one obvious example, because the melted wax keeps track of the hour while the smoke from an extinguished flame is a clear reminder of death. Flowers, fruit and meat serve a similar purpose, of course, because these items and the pleasure that they bring will soon disappear. The clock is yet another (not particular subtle) motif that reminds the viewer of the passage of time and, in doing so, becomes a symbol of transience and mortality.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is my first time incorporating a clock into my own still life work. Here I decided to blend the clock with some religious iconography. The memento mori meaning of the clock in this composition is reinforced by the placement of the crucifix, which has been arranged to act as a kind of mirror image to the timepiece. Note that time on the clock has been set to 3pm. This corresponds to the (approximate) time of Christ’s death. (The only Gospel writer to make note of the time of day of Christ’s death is Mark, who states that Jesus endured the torment of crucifixion for about 6 hours from the third hour — roughly 9am in modern parlance — putting his time of death at about 3pm.)

The last item in this still life that I haven’t discussed yet is the music box that the crucifix rests upon. The music box is, for me, a stand-in for the role that a lute with broken strings might play in a more classical composition; typically this would symbolize death and discord.

I’ve already spoken at length about the metaphorical content of this image. From a purely aesthetic perspective the guiding principle behind this piece is the mirroring of the two key focal points (the clock and the cross). This mirroring of composition is, in turn, mirrored in the colour palate by the contrasting of the red tones in the clock frame, music box, crucifix and fresh pig intestines on the left against the white of the clock’s face and the rotting pig intestines spilling out on the right of the image.

Enjoy!

New Still Lifes Available in my Etsy Store by Neal Auch

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“He blossoms like a flower, then withers; he flees like a shadow and does not last. ” -- Job 14:2


I've added prints of 5 new images to my online store.

This series is a selection of some of my most recent studies of memento mori art. As with my previous still life work, these compositions appropriate the motifs of 17th century Dutch still life and attempt to blend the metaphorical content of classical vanitas paintings with my own horror-film-inspired visual aesthetic.

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The first three images of this series all incorporate the same key elements — pomegranates, dead mice, and organ meats — to explore ideas around death and sexuality. The pomegranate is a common element in still life painting that is usually understood to represent temptation and sin, due to the role the fruit plays in the Greek myth The Rape of Persephone. I found it natural to pair the pomegranate along with mice, another common element from the history of still life. Mice also typically have sexual connotations in still life paintings; the extraordinary fertility of mice means that they are often interpreted as symbols of lechery and destruction. In these images I pair the adult mouse with a handful of dead baby mice, reinforcing the underlying themes of sexuality.

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I love the way the blood red colours of the pig intestines spilling about in these shots pairs with the saturated tones of the pomegranate. I also really enjoyed working with baby mice for this series; these are a visually interesting subject that I’ve only come to appreciate recently.

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The last two images in this series incorporate dying flowers and rotting fruit, both very common motif from the history of still life painting. All still life compositions contain, to greater or lesser extent, a lament about the transience of all things and my works are certainly no exception. While the arrangements of flowers and fruits and breakfast tables in the boring section of the museum can look boring to contemporary viewers, their intended audience would have understood these works as a reminder that life, like the food and flowers, will soon be be gone.

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All of these images are available in my Etsy store as 8X12" fine art print. The pieces come signed and titled and matted to fit readily into a standard 11X14" frame. I am happy to offer free shipping for customers in Canada or the US.

Enjoy!

New Still Lifes Available in my Etsy Store by Neal Auch

"My days are like lengthening shadows, and I wither away like grass." -- Psalms 102:11

I've added prints of these two images to my online store.

Both of these images draw inspiration from classical religious art and also from 17th century Dutch vanitas still life compositions. Here the Christian icons of the virgin mother and Christ on the cross -- respectively symbols of birth and rebirth -- are juxtaposed with rotting animal organs, as a reminder of the proximity of death and the transience of all things.

The first image is a pieta of sorts. Here a porcelain statue of the virgin mother lovingly cradles the severed foot of a dead chicken and is draped in pig bowels that spill around her form like a dress (or perhaps suggesting blood).

The second image of this series depicts a crucifix framed against an assortment of organ meats and dead flowers. The dead flowers suggest the biblical quote "Like a flower, he comes forth, then withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure." Job 14:2. The thorny rose stems, on the other hand, might suggest Christ's crown of thorns.

As in my last blog post: both of these images are a few years old, but neither has been available for online purchase until this moment. In fact, the image with the crucifix was made all the way back in Christmas of 2016 and this piece was initially constructed as a Christmas gift for an old friend, back when this art project was still in its infancy.

Enjoy!

New Portraits Available in my Etsy Store by Neal Auch

“Extreme seductiveness is at the boundary of horror” ― Georges Bataille

I've added prints of these three portrait images to my Etsy store. These shots are all somewhat old, but they have not been available for purchase until this moment.

These portraits, like all of my works, are very much informed by the idea of memento mori (Latin: "remember to die") and draw inspiration from both religious portraiture and also 17th century vanitas still life paintings. These images might be thought of as an invitation for the viewer to reflect on the certainty of death and the fragility of life. In all three compositions we see beautiful models posed alongside decaying and rotting animal flesh, a reminder of the proximity of death and the vanity of pleasures of the flesh.

The first image of this series features infamous queer model Oscar James Grace holding an arrangement -- perhaps an offering -- of dead birds and dead flowers.

In the second image of this series model Laura Dynamite tenderly nurses a dead duck. I like the juxtaposition between the image of a woman nursing (an act associated to reproduction and the rearing of new life) with the decaying flesh that she cradles.

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Finally, in the third image of this series model Sarah Samedi poses alongside a real lampshade that I built out of raw and fetid goat stomach. This piece employs the rotting flesh lampshade as a reminder of the omnipresence of death. The eerie mottled orange light falling on the model's face reminds us of the spectre of mortality and juxtaposes nicely with the cooler tones of the studio lighting on her right hand side.

Enjoy!

Still Life Studies with Severed Pig Head by Neal Auch

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“Sooner or later everyone realises that perfect happiness is unrealisable, but there are few who realise the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. … The certainty of death … places a limit on every joy, but also on every grief.” -- Primo Levi

This series of images continues with my ongoing studies of memento mori art. As with my previous still life work, these compositions appropriate the motifs of 17th century Dutch still life and attempt to blend the metaphorical content of classical vanitas paintings with my own horror-film-inspired visual aesthetic.

Both of the images in this series incorporate a severed pig head. For me the pig’s head serves as a kind of stand-in for the role that human skulls would traditionally play in vanitas paintings. There is, of course, a very long history of skull iconography in art, ranging from religious paintings, to still life, and through to more contemporary examples like Damien Hirsh’s bejewelled skull. (It’s certainly well outside the scope of this project to attempt anything even remotely resembling a comprehensive study of skull iconography, but it is interesting to note just how ubiquitous this symbol is. Skulls appear not only in art but also on pirate flags, on the lapels of the SS, on day of the dead cookies, decorating the walls of religious sites like the Catacombs or the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome, on horror movie posters, on heavy metal album covers, on Halloween decorations, on children’s toys, etc, etc, etc. )

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For these images I used a relatively fresh pig’s head. (The last one I purchased was maimed beyond use during my studies in disassembly…) While ripeness has certain advantages in terms of aesthetics, here I loved the way the fresh blood smearing the face and neck of the animal paired with the deep red of the roses and intestines.

Enjoy!

Still Life Studies: Apples with Tipped Cup by Neal Auch

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“Better on your arse than your feet, flat on your back than either, dead than the lot.”  -- Samuel Beckett

There’s a story that a Roman general who returned victorious from battle would be accompanied in his procession of glory through the streets by a slave whose job it was to whisper “remember that you will die” in the general’s ear. I wouldn’t be tempted to weigh in on the verisimilitude of this claim — such questions are well above my pay grade — but the story nevertheless encapsulates the meaning of memento mori art pieces, from medieval paintings through to my own contributions to the genre.

These two new still life arrangements are both composed in the style of vanitas still life painting, which seek to remind the viewer of the transience of life and the futility of pleasure. Here, as elsewhere, I incorporate the motifs of 17th century Dutch still life painting in the context of my own visual aesthetic. The meat, fruit, and flowers in such compositions encode messages about death and mortality; while those old paintings of fruit baskets in the museum might look quaint to a contemporary audience, viewers at the time would have understood these images as a reminder of inevitable decay.

Apples feature prominently in still life compositions and I’ve made use of this bit of iconography in both images of this series. Apples have a particular resonance in still life because of the role that fruit plays in the myth of the garden of Eden, and they are often interpreted as symbols of temptation, sin, and the fall of man. In both of these images I wanted to accompany the apples with organ meat (pig heart in the first image, cow kidney in the second) which might evoke the Biblical narrative about creation of Eve from Adam’s flesh.

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Both of these images also include a tipped cup, one of my favourite visual metaphors for the fragility of life. I usually pair this motif with some gore spilling out of the cup that might suggest wine, or perhaps blood. I often also like to enhance this interpretation of the tipped cup by placing it precariously close to the edge of the table. (Here and elsewhere I follow the popular Dutch approach to still life where one corner of the table is visible in lower quadrant of the frame.) In the second shot I also added in the extinguish candle, another common bit of iconography, that is usually interpreted as a metaphor for death.

Of course, at the end of the day I’m a visual artist, not a philosopher, and hence these compositions are also guided in large part by aesthetic considerations. I love the colour palate created by the wilting red roses, the blood red pig bowels, the deep purple kidney, and the apples. (The latter were, I believe, Red Delicious, in case anybody out there cares about such trivia.)

Enjoy!

Still Life with Peeled Lemon by Neal Auch

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“I believe that truth has only one face: that of a violent contradiction.”

― Georges Bataille

Here’s another sample from my most recent batch of still life compositions. This image appropriates two key motifs from the golden age of Dutch still life painting. The first is the poultry on the right, hung in a manner typical of game still lifes, a juxtaposition that I find interesting because the mechanisms of contemporary meat production have almost nothing in common with game hunting in the 1600s.

The second key motif in this image is the peeled lemon balanced precariously near the edge of the table in the bottom left of the image. The peeled lemon in art has a long and fascinating history that intersects with ideas of horticultural science, economic considerations, and the novel challenges that representing the fruit accurately presents to the painter. (If you’re interested there’s a great talk by Mariet Westermann on the topic.)

Of course motifs like the lemon almost certainly meant different things to different artists and the appeal of the lemon to me lies in its connection to the themes of vanity and memento mori. On the surface we have the usual interpretation that the fruit, like the meat, will rot and thus presents a reminder of mortality. But there is also something interesting in the contrast between the lemon’s beautiful colour and the sourness of its taste. Moreover, one might be tempted to argue a connection between the serpentine coils of the peel and the story of the garden of Eden…

There’s another symbolic aspect of the lemon that I find interesting in connection with my own still life work. This is the fact that, although the lemon certainly looks like a part of nature as it appears in a painting, the fruit is in fact the result of hybridization and, in this sense, could also be thought of as “man made,” just like accompanying the vases and silverware. I find this resonance particularly interesting because the overwhelming majority of the animals that we eat are also “man made” in that particular sense. It is no secret that contemporary farmed animals — chickens especially — are the result of extensive selective breeding and there are a host of ethical concerns one might raises around this practice that do not apply to the lemon (or other produce).

I’ve spoken about how the metaphorical content of the fruit and meat in image above can be juxtaposed with the meanings those symbols would have had in classical still life paintings. There’s another, more technical, interesting juxtaposition I’d like to draw attention to: the lighting. While I’ve borrowed the motifs and compositional techniques of 17th century still life in making this arrangement, my choice of lighting is rather contemporary. Typically still lifes would have had only a single light source (probably a window in the painter’s studio) whereas here I opted for a two light set-up. The key light is on the right, impinging on the scene orthogonally to the line of sight, and I also added a fairly harsh “kicker” light coming in from behind the arrangement on the left. I opted for this non-canonical setup because otherwise the cow and pig feet might have fallen into shadow and lost visual weight. As a bonus, the kicker light adds a sense of depth and texture to the cow foot on the left. This kind of intersection between classical and modern meanings and techniques is really at the heart of what I enjoy about making still life photographs.

Enjoy!

Still Life Studies: Pomegranate with Dead Mice by Neal Auch

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“The amount of meaning is in exact proportion to the presence of death and the power of decay” — Walter Benjamin

I’ve been working on some new still life arrangements! This series of images use the same key elements — pomegranates, dead mice, and organ meats — to explore ideas around death and sexuality. The pomegranate is a common element in still life painting that is usually understood to represent temptation and sin, due to the role the fruit plays in the Greek myth The Rape of Persephone. I found it natural to pair the pomegranate along with mice, another common element from the history of still life. Mice also typically have sexual connotations in still life paintings; their extraordinary fertility means that they are often interpreted as symbols of lechery and destruction. In these images I pair the adult mouse with a handful of dead baby mice, reinforcing the underlying themes of sexuality. (Special thanks to Ankixa of Casual Taxidermy for the rat hookup…)

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All still life compositions contain, to greater or lesser extent, a lament about the transience of all things. These images are, of course, no exception. The fruit, meat, and dead animals remind us of death and decay. The extinguished candle in the image above is one of my favourite iconographic elements from the history of still life. The candle is both a marker of the passage of time, and also a metaphor for a life extinguished. In all three images I’ve also included the tipped cup, a common metaphor for the fragility of life. In the above example this meaning is enhanced by the placement of the cup precariously close to the ledge.

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For this last shot I couldn’t resist including a phallic arrangement of cow trachea. Notice also the fetal mouse tucked away inside the pomegranate “womb” and the delightful way that the blood red tone in the fresh pig intestines pair with the vibrantly coloured pomegranate seeds and weird pink hues of the baby mice.

Enjoy!

Aesthetics of Sickness by Neal Auch

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I'm super excited to have my work featured in the latest book from Heavy Music Artwork: Aesthetics of Sickness. The book will feature not only imagery from yours truly, but also lots of amazing creepy art from lots of amazing artists in addition to interviews with some amazing bands including Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Napalm Death, and more!

I'm pleased to be able to offer my followers a 15% discount off the book with discount code IWANTGORE15 (the discount is available only for presell).

The link to buy is HERE.

Human Tooth Studies: Last Batch! by Neal Auch

“My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions.” ― James Joyce

After a busy Halloween season filled with lots of art shows and exciting publications, I’m now finally getting back to producing new content. Here are the last few images in my ongoing studies of human teeth; the full set of images of this type is now complete. I have plans to return to teeth as a subject matter, but my forthcoming work will break from the formula that I’ve used in my gallery Dentata so far. Enjoy!

Toronto Bazaar: Thank you! by Neal Auch

I had an amazing time The Bazaar of the Bizarre: Halloween 2018, Toronto edition! Thank you SO much Toronto, your support means so much and is a big part of what keeps art-y weirdos like me in the business of making weird art. The turn-out was spectacular, everybody I met was lovely, and I broke my previous record for print sales, which is amazing. Thank you!

I completely ran out of small format prints featuring skulls from the Catacombs of Paris and I nearly ran out of the medium format for this series also. Apologies to those who were disappointed to not get their hands on one of those; I evidently vastly underestimated the popularity of those works. I'm working to replace that stock right now, please send me a message if there's something specific you are looking for. 

For those out of the GTA: my Etsy shop is now live again with somewhat reduced inventory reflecting the sales yesterday. The stock should be back up in the next week or so.

Thanks all!

My Work is Featured in the Halloween Issue of Propulsion Magazine by Neal Auch

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I’m honoured to see my works featured in the Halloween issue of Propulsion Magazine. If you’re not familiar with Propulsion, they’re an awesome dark art magazine that feature loads of amazing photographers, visual artists, writers, etc. In their words:

Propulsion Magazine maintains an affinity for alternative/occult related art and works depicting deep themes that invoke strong emotional responses. Propulsion does not shy away from counter culture or taboo topics and depictions. Controversial topics and things that start conversations and create questions are always welcome. We encourage individuality and free thought amongst all included.

Check out the Halloween issue here!

Bazaar of the Bizarre: Halloween 2018, Toronto Edition by Neal Auch

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I’m super excited to announce that I’ll be at the Toronto Bazaar of the Bizarre again this year! I had a great time at the event last year and I’m very pleased to be doing this again with so many awesome vendors. You can check out the event Facebook page for more information. (I’ve also cut-and-pasted some of that info below.) Friends in Hamilton: don’t worry, I’ll be doing the Hamilton Bazaar also on the following Sunday! More info to come…


What: A marketplace for all things, different, interesting, macabre, out of this world..."not your grandma's craft show". ;)

When: Sunday October 7th 2018, open to the public from 11am - 8pm 


Where: Pia Bouman Ballet School, 6 Noble street, Toronto

The bazaar remains a true Bazaar of the Bizarre, open to the public with FREE admission, and showcasing a wide variety of independent artists, designers, and crafters.

VENDOR LIST:
Jess Hrycyk
Three on the Treetop
Ilysian Fields
NeoShiki
The Maille Women
Monsterville
Collum Fabrica
Natalie Very B. Illustration
Hedo Cosmetics
GRRRL Spells
Stuffed pain
hugo is a ghost
Thready To Go
William Hayward Johns
Freaktography
Sword in the Stone Crafts
Gypsy Circus  
Art Of Keith Busher: Precious Mutations
The Tarot Boutique
Le Petit Chapeau
The Bottom Line 
Seven Sisters 
Drop Dead Candles 
Lunamoon
Steamgummi
Neal Auch Photography
My Heart & Armour
Lunchbag Letdown
BEE23 Natural Beauty
PRIESTESS jewelry
Black Iris Design
Valkyrie Bone Crafts
Thread and Flash Studio
Monster Cliche
Black line accessories 
Sabrina Scott / Witchbody
Homebody Collective 
Hex and Herb
Muze Creations
Young Pup Lingerie
Fjellstrom Leather
SkullStore
Artisan Maille
Vanessa Walsh Erotic Watercolours
Little Bell
6Whips
The Lady of the Lathe
Revprint studio 205
The Wholesome Witch
Druid Forest 
From the Attic Dark Dolls 
Jool
RONIN FOOD CO
Inspiration Vintage
Plastik Wrap clothing

Etsy Store by Neal Auch

Blatant self promotion time: I now officially have a shop on Etsy!

Obviously I've been in the print sales business for some time now, but thus far I mostly focused on selling at events (gallery showings, bazaars, art crawls, etc) or else doing custom orders through my website. I've decided to supplement these activities with an online store where the process is more automated and streamlined. For the time being the selection on my Etsy shop is pretty limited. This is a deliberate choice: I want to keep shipping times very fast and I want to be printing/assembling the pieces myself (rather than using a 3rd party to fill orders). To this end, all the pieces listed are already printed and assembled and ready to ship. The downside here is that this approach leads to a lot of overhead costs; to keep that under control I'm focusing on a small selection of my more popular images. (There are literally a fuck load of images on this website, it's just not feasible for me to make prints of every single one.) If you want to purchase something that's not in my store I am more than happy to make custom orders, it's no problem whatsoever. I am also happy to offer different sizes, papers, etc. Honestly, whatever you're looking for I can probably accommodate, just send me an email or reach out on social media or whatever.

Over the coming weeks I'll be adding some new images, including a selection of my human tooth studies. Stay tuned!

New Teeth Photos! by Neal Auch

“My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions.” ― James Joyce

My latest batch of photos of human teeth is now complete and has been added to my gallery Dentata.  Last time I spoke a bit about how these new works slot into the general theme of Memento Mori that permeates all of my creative output in one way or another.  Since I plan to return to this subject several more times in future blog posts, I thought it might be fun to switch things up a bit for this update and instead talk a bit about the technical aspects of what goes into photos like this.

Extreme close-up photos like those in my galleries Inside and Dentata are usually called "macro" photography by camera nerds, and there are a number of technical complications associated to this genre.  First off, you either need a specialty lens, or else extension tubes to even be able to focus at such close range to the subject.  (I've used both approaches in my career; currently I'm shooting on a 60mm 2:1 macro lens but if you're on a budget then extension tubes plus prime normal lens is a great hack.)

The most interesting technical issue surrounding close-up work is the problem of depth of focus.  When you shoot at high magnification you will end up extremely shallow depth of field for pretty much any choice of aperture, meaning that only a teeny tiny sliver of the image will actually be in sharp focus.  If you like that look then fine, enjoy it, but I personally don't care for that aesthetic at all.  (I've never understood the fixation some photographers have on bokeh; to my mind this look is way overdone and is often used as a crutch by lazy photographers who try and clean up a messy composition by blurring out all the distracting crap in the background rather than taking the time to compose a simple shot free of distractions in the first place.)  To circumvent this 'problem' I will typically take 50-100 exposures for each image, with each exposure having a slightly different focal point.  Then these images need to be stacked and blended together in Photoshop to produce the kinds of shots I like, which are sharp and in-focus across all (or at least most) of the subject. 

Aside from the extra computing and shooting time needed for this approach there are other issues.  Getting close-up tends to cut down on the light, so to get a good image you'll need slow shutter speeds.  Of course, this means everything needs to be locked down on a tripod (which is also necessary because of the stacking and shallow depth of field).  All told images like this take about an hour each to shoot, plus 1-2 hours of editing time to get the focus stacking and aesthetic editing done correctly.  So...  It's a bit labour intensive.  But I love the results.  Enjoy!

New Project: Human Teeth by Neal Auch

“My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions.” ― James Joyce

I've been hard at work on some new material over the last while. Here's a sneak peak, showing some preliminary work in progress from my studies of human teeth. This project slots somewhat nicely into my general fascination with portraiture of the dead and, indeed, I've long been fascinated by teeth. There's a certain intimacy about doing this kind of close-up work with something that used to be a part of a person. I love getting up close and personal with all the little markers of scum and wear and decay; those tiny little details that might be invisible under normal viewing conditions and that mark the passage of time. Lots more to come. In the meantime: enjoy the tooth decay!

By the way: if there's anybody out there with some dentistry expertise who can help me identify these teeth, please send me a PM. Ultimately there will be about a dozen distinct teeth in the gallery -- with multiple views of each -- and I'd eventually love to have the correct technical names attached to each image. If anybody is interested in helping me out here please send me a message, I will repay your kindness as best I can.

Decaying Mountains: Close-Up Views of The Lamb's Teeth by Neal Auch

"My mouth is full of decayed teeth and my soul of decayed ambitions." --James Joyce
 

These two images are the last of my close-up studies of the lamb's head, this time focusing on the teeth.  In my last post I mused on the similarity between close-up work and landscape photography.  To me, these images seem to suggest mountain ranges.  Part of what's so fascinating about photographing teeth is getting to capture the wear and decay and scum that come along for the ride with the daily ritual of eating.  I have plans to revisit this same idea from a more human perspective in the near future, so stay tuned for that.  In the meantime: enjoy the weirdo teeth mountain range imagery! 

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Strange Landscapes: Close-Up Views of the Lamb's Mouth by Neal Auch

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“I wanted to swallow myself by opening my mouth very wide and turning it over my head so that it would take in my whole body, and then the Universe, until all that would remain of me would be a ball of eaten thing which little by little would be annihilated: that is how I see the end of the world.” ― Jean Genet, Our Lady of the Flowers

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This series of images continues with my studies of the lamb's head. All of these shots explore textures and structures in the beast's mouth (mostly tongue and lips).

I find it interesting to bounce back and forth between still life and macro photography since, although I treat the same subject matter in both cases, these two genres of photography are almost perfectly opposite. In still life everything is rather literal, and the game is all about composition and lighting. Close up work is quite different: composition is almost nonexistent in some of these shots, and the lighting is almost always straightforward. Instead, everything is about abstraction and the focus is all about technical stuff in post-production (focus stacking, etc). I'm sure I'm not the first photographer to note an analogy between close-up work and landscape photography, but it does seem very apt in terms of both the final results and also the creative process. (For whatever reason my impression is that landscape photographers seems more interested in exploring the breadth of their subject, but that's a rant for another day...) Anyway, enjoy the weirdo close-up lamb mouth imagery!

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Diseased Flesh: Close-Up Views of Sores on Chicken Feet by Neal Auch

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"I know what the disease wants." --Seth Brundle, dialogue from Cronenburg's The Fly (1986)

DISCLAIMER:  I have been doing this project long enough to know that a significant fraction of my viewers are interested in the aesthetics of my work, but rather less interested in my concerns about the ethics of eating animals.  And that's absolutely great and a perfectly valid way to interact with the work; I think that all art is open to interpretation and that the audience's interpretation(s) should have no priority over those of the artist themselves.  In discussing my work I'm faced with a bit of a tightrope to walk: on the one hand I don't want to obfuscate my own motivations in making this work, while on the other hand I am aware that there's a danger of alienating members of my audience who don't share my concerns about factory farming.  So I wanted to preface this post with a bit of a disclaimer: while I try to avoid coming off as preachy, the subject of these images is quite impossible to discuss without being kind of a huge bummer about the meat industry.  So if that's not something you're into, you might want to skip this particular set of images.  In the next post I promise I'll have some cool creepy shots of teeth that look like mountain ranges.  But for those of you who are into this kind of thing...

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“What the meat industry figured out is that you don't need healthy animals to make a profit. Sick animals are more profitable...  Factory farms calculate how close to death they can keep animals without killing them."  --Jonathan Safran Foer, from Eating Animals

The animals that we consume are sick, but for the most part this ugliness remains hidden from the consumer.  Part of the reason I'm so fascinated by chicken's feet is that they provide a rare example of a food product where sores and deformities and disease markers are easy to see.  These images continue with my ongoing studies of the various visible sores that present on commercially available chicken feet.  It's worth noting that I do not make any special effort to get my hands on diseased animal organs, these kinds of sores are very common.

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The more I look at these things the more visually interesting I find them.  The colours are incredible: that contrast between the deep black at the heart of the sore and the weird yellow skin sloughing off and the pale healthy flesh that surrounds it all.  I have struggled with what to do about that yellow flesh, in particular.  It is such a vibrant colour that it almost looks oversaturated and I'm tempted to dial back the saturation on that particular channel to keep the image from looking too cartoonish.  But, at the same time, this really is the colour of that flesh.  Enjoy!

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A Close-Up View of the Lamb's Eye by Neal Auch

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"Thus, two globes of equal size and consistency had suddenly been propelled in opposite directions at once.  One, the white ball of the bull, had been thrust into the 'pink and dark' cunt that Simone had bared in the crowd; the other, a human eye, had spurted from Granero's head with the same force as a bundle of innards from a belly.  This coincidence, tied to death and to a sort of urinary liquefaction of the sky, first brought us back to Marcelle in a moment that was so brief and almost insubstantial, yet so uneasily vivid that I stepped forward like a sleepwalker as though about to touch her at eye level."  --Bataille, from Story of the Eye

After having focused on still life composition so much of late, I wanted to revisit my old love of close-up (macro) photography.  The first subject that came to my mind was the lamb's eye, something that I have photographed before but felt merited another investigation.  In the image above I wanted to emphasize the strange somewhat deflated look these eyes take on in death.  In contemplating the strange shape of the dead creature's eye I was reminded of George Bataille's stunning novel, Story of the Eye, and his fixation on sexual arousal surrounding various globe-like elements (the sun, the egg, the bull's testes, the eye of Granero the bullfighter, and the eye of the murdered priest).  I could write endlessly about Bataille's wonderfully transgressive and inscrutable erotic fiction, but that would take us a bit off the topic at hand and, in any case, is probably above my pay grade since I have no special qualifications as a book reviewer or literary scholar.  (Of course this complete lack of qualifications hasn't previously stopped me from posting book reviews and musing about literature, so perhaps I'll revisit this topic again soon.)

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For the above image I decided to focus my attention away from the globe of the eye -- that strange deflated shape that would have interested Bataille so much -- and instead on the boney structure of the eye socket.  I love these strange little ridges and bumps and the texture of the flesh.  Enjoy!