A Language of the Vanishing brought together two series of photographs by Claudia Terstappen that prompted us to probe our relationship with the natural world.
Photographs taken in the dark recesses of the Natural History Museum in Berlin revealed jars, drawers and cabinets filled with carefully pinned and labelled specimens amassed in the nineteenth century for the museum’s scientific collection. Terstappen captured the painstaking efforts that had been made by scientists and museums to document, classify, label, and organize specimens in an attempt to understand and map the diversity of species.
This series of museum photographs was juxtaposed with large format images of roadkill that is a now ubiquitous sight on the roads that traverse the Australian landscape. Adopting the conventions of science, each image depicted a single creature, photographed in situ without changing the animal’s position.
Deliberately referencing the vivid styling of advertisements, her billboard scale photographs of roadkill reminded us of the environmental costs of consumerism.
Magnified and still, these photographs document a vanishing world. Death reveals itself in silence; and the animals in their graceful stillness raise questions as to future opportunities to interact with wild animals; in a world in which our own survival is directly linked to that of our flora and fauna.