Diana M. Sanchez | Chimera
In the early twentieth century animal welfare and a desire to represent nature truthfully became a priority in zoological gardens and natural history museums. With the advent of photography as a method to accurately record nature, scientists and naturalists brought back images from the field. These were used as guides to design displays to re-create natural habitats. Animals, plants and other objects were carefully placed, and backgrounds molded and painted, to encourage visitors to see and, in turn, to photograph the animals themselves, as if they were experiencing the natural world.
The Chimera series explores, through photography, fanciful animal habitats in zoological gardens and natural history museums. The frame leaves out visitors, who otherwise break the illusion of looking into another world. A pinhole camera, used for its long exposures, makes zoo animals appear ghost-like if they move, while, the imitative animal motion of the taxidermy in museums appears still. The back and forth from stillness to motion from one photograph to another, make the viewer reflect on the spectator desire to see animals in exhilarating encounters.
This photographic series reveals chimeras – imaginative narratives that expose the idealized, paradise-like constructions of these animal habitats. The similar painted backgrounds, plastic rocks, and artificial or real plant life that surround the animal bodies in both places, make it impossible to hide the human presence.
Diana Sanchez is a photographer born in Bogota, Colombia. She graduated with an MFA in photography from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2013. Diana also completed her MA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2012 and her BFA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2006. She currently resides in Washington, DC where she continues to investigate with her camera our complex relation to animals.