Photographed at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Skins series is a form of historical record. In winter 2009 I was invited to view the specimen bird collection by an ornithologist on staff who had access to the museum’s extensive specimen storage facility. The experience had a profound effect on me immediately, creating conflicted emotions about nature and the human effort to understand it. As I stood surrounded with the objects of death, I decided to conduct my own “unprofessional study” by researching the subject and photographing the collection.
From a personal perspective, the Skins series is a kind of self-expression through the lens. In 1990 when communism in Ukraine was nearing its end, my family fled for the U.S. in search of political asylum. Because of my deep associations with Diaspora and displacement, I understand what it feels like to stand apart, or to assume the role of an outsider. Skins is a symbolic reflection of this experience, the thought processes, and emotions that follow it.
What fascinates me about the resulting photographs is the beauty found in images of lifeless fowl in a placid, captive state with eyes hollowed and claws extended, tagged and lined in rows. They evoke feelings of nostalgia and intrigue about nature’s course of life and death. The Skins series is a testimony to time’s relentless melt and life’s fragility and impermanence.