R. Wayne Parsons

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Project | R. Wayne Parsons: Playing with bones

A New York City based photographer creates still lifes with bones and skulls, exploring the themes of life, death, and the relationship between the two.

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Artist’s statement

I began photographing bones purely by happenstance. I wandered into a natural history store (shells, fossils, etc.) and noticed a box of miscellaneous bones from small mammals. I immediately thought they would be interesting material for a photography project by virtue of their interesting, varied shapes and their subtle tonal shading. But they also provide entry into the fascinating drama of life on earth and its evolutionary course. Bones demonstrate how the evolutionary process has led to more complex organisms increasingly capable of interacting with and responding effectively to the environment. Vertebrate organisms have a more rigid physical structure that allows for more rapid movement less dependent on the surrounding environment. Bones also allow for the creation of structures more protective of vital organs of the organism. Furthermore, in all cultures bones are fraught with emotional and cultural meaning that makes them a fertile source for artistic exploration.

After working extensively with these small bones I enlarged the project to include the bone most fraught with meaning, the human skull. The cranial cavity houses the brain and therefore literally provides “room for thought,” the subtitle I use for images in the series that include a skull. Thought is central to these photos, as Home sapiens is so far as we know the only species capable of abstract thought and therefore aware of its own mortality. Part of the inspiration for these photographs is the memento mori/vanitas art tradition that emphasizes mortality. However, I do not want to mimic the look of art of the past, rather to create images with a more contemporary perspective. While these photos undoubtedly carry connotations of death, I also note that the concept of death necessarily contains within it the opposite idea of life. Accordingly, much as obituaries are more about life than death, I see this project as an exploration of life, death, and the unending intertwined relationship between the two.

I am a New-York-City based photographer. I received a BA in physics from the University of Mississippi and a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University. I began my exploration of photography with courses in black-and-white technique at the International Center of Photography. My main interest is still-life photography.

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© Images and text: R. Wayne Parsons.

Artist’s website: www.rwayneparsons.com

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Click on any picture below to look at the project. Full screen mode is recommended.

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