Epitaphs: Silent Stories. Photographs by Pavlina Ecclesiarhou
Epitaphs: Silent Stories
The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, which assesses over 19,000 threatened species, originally inspired San Francisco-based artist Pavlina Ecclesiarhou to begin her Epitaphs series. “I wanted to make a story about animals on the brink of extinction,” she explains. Photographing a selection of these animals at natural history museums worldwide, Ecclesiarhou has produced a collection of images that highlights these threatened species and seeks to increase public awareness about the imminent loss of biodiversity.
Using a shallow depth of field, Ecclesiarhou allows the background of her images to lose focus, effectively removing the animal from the context of its artificial environment. The artist then layers and paints upon her photo negatives before reproducing the images. In doing so, she further obscures the photograph and creates images that, much like the dioramas in natural history museums, evoke a sense of illusion and offer a place for contemplation.
Though these animals are not yet extinct, Ecclesiarhou chose to photograph taxidermied specimens as source material for her images. In this way, she encourages the viewer to reflect upon society’s role in the preservation of these redlisted species: can they be conserved as living species in the wild, or are they fated to be preserved in dioramas at natural history museums?
Originally from Thessaloniki, Greece, artist and photographer Pavlina Ecclesiarhou earned an MA in theoretical linguistics in England before moving to California to pursue a degree in commercial photography from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. She has lived and worked in San Francisco since 1984. Ecclesiarhou’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently during the 2016 Gala Biennial in Berlin. She was a finalist for both the 2012 Pollux Award and the 2015 Julia Margaret Cameron Award held by the Gala Awards, a photography foundation based in the United Kingdom.
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