What is it about bones?

bn_img00331I won’t lie – I love to photograph bones. Certainly I photograph other things, but bones, animal bones specifically, are 75% of my work. I went through several phases of this, sometimes investigating why I did, other times giving in without wondering. I’m back to wondering why, so I’ll go over some old ground and see if something new appears, much like the search for bones. Bone, the material, without any reference to origin, speak intrinsically to me, and hopefully to others. They subconsciously remind us of our mortality, as we realize that to view a bone, something had to die. This is perhaps the root of the issue: bones are privileged viewing – they need to be stripped to be seen. They reside under our skins, our flesh; under the stuff that makes us alive that we see every day. It’s a momentous moment when we see bone, and yet they provide the very foundation of our lives.¬†

What else do they speak of, besides our existence and the imminent end of it (as if that weren’t enough.) There’s the idea of decay, of loss – something found in the dirt, stripped of all that is useful and slowly degrading into nothingness. What happened that this should be found here? The forensic history of the bones is enough to excite me, in a rubbernecking sort of way. Some are easy – a cat hit by a car, a cow that has died in the bramble. Others defy sleuthing, the species unknown and the event long cold. Others, I know their story well – the rabbit I fed to an eagle at the Cascades Raptor Center, it’s skull picked clean and soaked for months to remove all excess material.

It doesn’t really matter how they come to me – some have been given by friends who know me as the “Bone Collector”, shipped cross-country by my mother, fully supportive of her son’s odd habits, or found on hikes. What matters, along with the story of its arrival, is the liminal quality of the bone, and photography’s ability to cease its decay in that moment, and begin another life.



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