Ulla Schildt & Liza Dracup

My tutor suggested I look at Ulla Schildt and Liza Dracup’s work regarding animals in preparation for my final assignment. Unfortunately I could not find much information on the internet about these two artists so I have confined my review to the links I could access through the OCA study visit announcement of 12 February, 2016.

Ulla Schildt is a Finnish photographer, currently living in Norway. Her ‘A Rare Visitor’ series is a body of work containing images of natural history museums and zoos. The images are records of spaces that have been artificially created so that man can safely observe nature without having any interaction. Personally I cannot think of anything more depressing than a natural history museum as I can not abide stuffed animals. In absence of viewing a wild animal in its natural surroundings, I would rather opt for visiting a zoo where live animals can be observed, even though their “habitat” may be artificially sustained.

I find some of her photographs rather disconcerting. An image taken in a storage room where shelving on the margins of the frame lead the eye down the row to the end of the room where anatomy parts of the front and rear ends of two reindeer can be seen. Stacked behind them are large wooden crates. A strange place to find animals. By placing the reindeer in what is probably some kind of storage room, only serves to emphasise the unnatural habitat and artificiality of the natural museum. These animals should be seen roaming snow covered land, foraging between pine trees. And then there is the photograph of a series of images, all of which are of animals or portions of animals mounted on small pedestals and further mounted on a larger black cube pedestal as if they are works of art. I can’t make out all the animals from the photograph, but of those that I can there is one that appears to be a stuffed fish; the head of a seal;  a rabbit; a small four legged animal which I can’t identify and a fox. I found the seal head particularly gruesome. Schildt has chosen to display this set of images close together and in keeping with the stuffed/mounted theme, has just pinned them to the wall instead of framing them. This seems to add to the pertubation I was experiencing in viewing these images.

Liza Dracup is based in the north of England and has been nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2012 and the Prix Pictet (Earth) Photography Award in 2009. Her series Re: Collections, is a body of work that is a representation of the taxidermist’s representation of the live animal. She describes this as a “half life” where one can’t quite be sure whether the photo is of a live or dead animal.

Unexpectedly I prefer Dracup’s body of work to that of Ulla Schildt’s. Perhaps it is the manner in which the taxidermy has been photographed. All the images have been taken in a portrait style with black backgrounds and this brings about a unifying component to the set of images. It also focuses the attention solely on the animals or the body parts that she has photographed. It also helps that Dracup has focused on the individual characteristics of each animal she has photographed: the brilliant colours of the kingfisher; the individual feathers of the magpie’s wing; the cheeky beak and iridescence of the starling’s plumage.

These two bodies of work are quite dissimilar and one can’t really compare the one to the other apart from the fact that they both deal with the subject of taxidermy.

Reference List

Liz Dracup Photographer [online]. Available from: http://www.lizadracup.co.uk/index.html [Accessed 10 March, 2016]

Liz Dracup – Re: Collections Exhibition [online] Streetlevel Photoworks. Available from: http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/event/streetlevelphotoworks.org/event/liza_dracup [Accessed 10 March, 2016]

Joanne (2016). Ulla Schildt & Liz Dracup [online] Photography, Study Visits. We Are OCA. Available from: http://weareoca.com/photography/ulla-schildt-liza-dracup/ [Accessed 10 March, 2016]

Ulla Schildt – A Rare Visitor Exhibition [online] Streetlevel Photoworks. Available from: http://www.streetlevelphotoworks.org/event/ulla_schildt [Accessed 10 March, 2016]

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