Student Work

  • Photography (MFA)

    John Deamond

    A Field Guide to the Extinct and Extirpated Birds of North America

    This is a story about access. Though a species may go extinct, it often survives in our cultural memory. The demise of a bird whose flocks once darkened the sky for days at a time is bound to leave an empty space. This body of work investigates that space, the vestiges of a once robust taxa that is now gone. How we fill that space reveals how we deal with the knowledge that our culture is solely responsible for the obliteration of over a dozen taxa that will never again walk the earth. Our relationship to these extinct birds can serve as a parable for the Western world’s interaction with the whole of nature. But shedding light on this bizarre and convoluted relationship often leads to more questions than answers.

    A Field Guide to the Extinct and Extirpated Birds of North America guides the viewer on an exploration of my own journey of understanding. As a member of the society that I am critiquing, I cannot stand outside and point a finger. Instead, I consciously work within its systems, making apparent in my work my own curatorial decisions and pressure from outside sources. In the end, anyone picking up my field guide should be immediately suspicious of its fidelity, questioning whether the evident decisions and revisions are the intent of an artist, natural history museum, or other party. I hope that this will lead them to a healthy suspicion of the framing of nature as a whole.