The precision of the two images is impressive. On the same red background, a large-format detail of a blackbird is presented on the left and the cut wing of a kestrel on the right, which means that the juxtaposition corresponds to that of natural enemies. Although they are photographers, the effect of the motifs is highly artificial. The graphic background forms a contrast to the three-dimensional plumage. By concentrating on the fragment, Steve Braun achieves an anonymization of the motif. It is not about the individual, but about a principle: the metamorphosis of the living, individual animal into a dead object.

Both birds are stuffed specimens. The artificial plasticity of the animal fragments is the result of a long-term exposure with elaborate use of flashlight from different positions. In addition, there is post-processing on the computer, which Braun calls “digital washing of the dead”. Especially the dust on the feathers is removed and the motif is cleaned. The dead animal, “immortalized” as an object by the taxidermist according to human ideas, is prepared and “reified” a second time in the photograph. It is thus mortified twice, reflecting an intensive examination of relevant theories of the genre, in which photography is described as the “dead medium” par excellence. Decisive for this insight is ultimately a circumstance that one might not even notice at first: The feathers are not those of a living animal. The animal that has become an object no longer cares about its order and care. They age in their prepared form quite differently than they would in a living organism. The black frame can then obviously be seen as a mourning border, while the title refers to the mistake one would make if one equated the (photographed) object with a living being.

Text: Jochen Meister

© 2019 by Steve Braun