“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth.”
-- Chief Seattle
The images in this series, "Last of its Kind," are portraits of taxidermied animals in natural history museums. Most were plentiful when they were collected at the beginning of the last century, but are now so few that they hover near extinction. Some animals, including the Whooping Crane, have been miraculously brought back from the brink of extinction. Other animals, including the Black Rhino, are regarded by conservationists as "the living dead" because the chances of the species' survival is so low. Sadly, more and more animals like the Mexican Grizzly Bear have disappeared completely from the face of the Earth.
Our planet is currently in the midst of widespread, accelerated extinctions due to human interference. Climate change, habitat loss, overhunting and overharvesting are contributing to a modern mass extinction that scientists predict will result in the loss of 20-50% of all living species on Earth (both flora and fauna) by the end of the 21st Century. Images of animals that are either newly extinct or that have been brought back from the brink of extinction are important for us to see and to consider because they represent the choices we have made in the past and the choices we will make in the future.
This series was shot with a digital camera I had converted to infrared in order to reveal an otherworldly spectrum of light we can't normally see. The animals are ghosts from our past. In their dioramas they exist in a world where they are many and their disappearance from Earth resides in a distant and unknown future. I gold-toned the images and framed them with vignettes as my ode to the photographic style of a lost time.