Debbie Carlos photos attempt to capture objects at their moments of greatest clarity: In certain light, at a certain time of day, in a certain place. The method is to wander and notice. Moments of quiet strangeness, patterns of light and shadow, minute-by-minute surprises, changes that don’t happen, something askew, something exactly in place, natural and artificial phenomena, are all sources of inspiration, and the subjects for her work.
The first time I took pictures of the animal displays at Chicago’s Field Museum, I did so purely out of interest in animals. Framing my photos so as to imitate nature photography seemed natural in an environment where the animals, long dead, are themselves placed and positioned in scenes that recreate their habitats. Once I developed my negatives, the significance of the human world, science, and ownership seemed all of a sudden very apparent in the life-like death of the creatures on display. The murky quality of the lighting and the dark desaturated tones of the exhibits, convey a sensuality and romanticism at odds with the sense of stagnant death that lingers in the cracked skin of 100-year-old taxidermied animals and birds strung up as though in flight with fishing line. Inside the museum, nature is labeled, classified, and static, turned into an object of knowledge. These photos attempt to capture the mystery and romance of this very pursuit—the sincerity of the scientific endeavor, the pathos of its visible failure, and the beauty of the attempt to engage with nature. Debbie Carlos