The “Skins” project was photographed in the Museum of Natural History in New York City. I was invited to see the museum's extensive specimen bird collection in winter 2008. Many of the millions of these specimens were collected as early as turn of the 20th century and are from all over the world. These collections have a profound effect on the viewer in turn creating a tapestry revealing nature and the human effort to comprehend it.
Specimens come from a variety of sources. Most are salvaged from birds killed by window and tower strikes, die-offs from disease, and other accidental sources of mortality. However the world’s bird collectors are arguably inadequate to the task of truly documenting avian diversity from taxonomic, geographic, and temporal prospectives. Underrepresented taxa continue to be actively collected by ornithologists, generally using either firearms or mist-nets.
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 personal experience growing up in Eastern Europe I understand what it feels like to stand apart, or to assume the role of an outsider. The “Skins” series is a reflection of this experience and the thought processes and emotions that follow it.
The images of lifeless fowl in a placid, captive state with eyes hollowed and claws extended, tagged and lined in rows, evoke feelings of intrigue about nature's course of life and death. The idea of death and decay often creates uncomfortable sensations. But it is inevitable and is part of life. Thus this series is also an exploration of this curious stage of transformation. A contemplation of an “in-between” state where organic matter becomes part of the universe. This process of change is the only permanent thing that exists in our reality. However humans incessantly try to intervene with this process in an attempt to preserve themselves and everything around them.