natural history by traer scott
During the summer of my ninth and tenth years, my mother, in lieu of hiring a babysitter, kept me captive in our hometown Natural History Museum all day…everyday. She functioned as a vibrant and quirky volunteer curator while I spent very long, solitary weeks communing with the museum's animals, both living and dead, as well as operating the ancient manual elevator for employees and rummaging through the museum’s disheveled collection of mite riddled, century old periodicals and books housed in a private storage. I have since harbored an immense affection for all things old and musty and mysterious, particularly preserved animals whose half dead/half alive presence is at once fascinating and unnerving.
Natural History is a series of completely candid, in-camera single exposure images which bring together both the living and the dead, creating allegorical narratives of our troubled co-existence with nature. Ghost-like reflections of modern visitors viewing wildlife dioramas are juxtaposed against the taxidermied subjects themselves, housed behind the thick glass with their faces molded into permanent expressions of fear, aggression or passivity.
The animals in these dioramas were collected (and killed) by "naturalists" primarily at the beginning of the 20th century as a means of bringing information and exotic delight to the public in an age long before television or even radio. However, the lust for categorizing and collecting flora and fauna, even with the intent of increasing scientific knowledge, often granted explorers carte blanch for extermination. After decades of over-hunting, climate change, poaching and destruction of habitat, many of these long dead specimens now represent endangered or completely extinct species.