Biologist E.O. Wilson has suggested that we are now entering the Earth’s Eremozoic period, which he characterises as an age of loneliness following mass extinctions caused by human activity. In contrast with the more commonly used term Anthropocene (or ‘age of man’), Wilson’s classification addresses the history we are living through from a broader ecological perspective, to recognise humanity’s essential and inextricable connectedness with other forms of life on the planet.
In these pictures, Naughten explores the history of this complex relationship, examining how we have attempted to contain nature in both physical structures and cognitive frameworks. Our image of nature is so often partial, refusing to engage with the environment’s overwhelming power and intricacy whilst erasing traces of human culpability from the narrative of our dwindling natural habitat.
To reflect on how this understanding has evolved, Naughten turned to dioramas – displays designed to provide a discrete window onto nature, often used traditionally in exhibitions of natural history.
He uses photography to reanimate their scenes, presented for fresh consideration in a series of defamiliarised pictures. Taking the artful composition of the original dioramas and heightening their colour palette to further exoticise the settings, Naughten has charged these photographs with a sense of illusion. They play to the popular misperception of nature as something that occurs in faraway ‘wild’ places, cut off from our own reality. The camera’s capacity to compress perspective and scale into these seamless representations encourages us to question what we are seeing in the diorama vistas, where their truth begins and our responsibilities have ended.
As we come to terms with the implications of what our new age of loneliness might mean, the need to reclaim nature from its confined imaginative space on the outskirts of our day to day existence has never been more urgent. This series extends an invitation to consider what our world might look like from these new horizons of awareness.
The Orangutans (150 × 100 cm; C–type)
The Gibbons (150 × 100 cm; C–type)
The Kudus (150 × 100 cm; C–type)
The Birds (150 × 100 cm; C–type)
The Manatee (150 × 100 cm; C–type)