Gregory Elms


I grew up in a suburban hotel with a public bar festooned in taxidermy hunting trophies. I’d spend ages gazing at them and have remained enthralled by their life-like lifelessness ever since. For me taxidermy is akin to photography: it too presents a frozen moment as a copy of the real thing. On one level, the work explores our primal emotional response when in close proximity to animals and insects. But it also explores what truth means in photography – is a contrived photograph still real? And doesn’t photography always render the real as contrived? I seek to highlight this conundrum with the further contrivance of taxidermy. Inspired by gothic and nocturnal precursors in art, and the history of zoology, the fauna are recontextualised into a menagerie of lost lives – some of them, presumably, the celebration of a now forgotten hunting spree. Each one echoes the story of their demise and surrender to human intervention, their poses animated by a taxidermist’s skills of presentation and reality reenactment. To document the series, I have employed the idiosyncratic image making qualities of a film scanner re-purposed into a lens-less camera, its simplicity reminiscent of a camera obscura. Set in an otherwise unlit studio, the resultant image reveals a constructed twilight that fuels a dark narrative. Focus of the subject is likewise abnormal, sharp only where features press against the glass platen screen, dissolving into darkness and blur as they recede, implying a sense of entrapment behind the image surface. Preserved raises allusions to the history of zoological inquiry and highlights the sense of loss intrinsic to mortality. Indeed, the works can be read as a series of ecological memento mori.

What Remains continues my investigation into truth and mortality, using animal skulls re-scaled photographically to prehistoric proportions, reminiscent of Australia’s long extinct mega fauna. A high-resolution imaging device is used to create richly detailed works possessing a seductive beauty at odds with the nightmarish nature of the subject matter. The resultant images are given minimal manipulation to emphasise the taxonomic nature of photography. In drawing on these empirical qualities, the work nonetheless accentuates the sublime and illuminates the primal. Such dualities are a central theme in the work: the nexus of reality and illusion, scientific enquiry and fine art, gothic horror and the infinite sublime of death.


GREGORY ELMS pursues the rupture of photography’s implicit claim to realism. He studied photography at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, graduating in 1986 and painting at Victorian College of the Arts, graduating in 2000. Elms has a 20 year history of exhibiting photo based media. Following on from previous exhibitions of photograms and photo realist painting, his current series, Preserved, represents a new development in his work with alternative photographic practices – all the images created by re-purposing a flat bed scanner into a large format digital camera.