Photographer Richard Barnes reveals the artifice and strange beauty of animals in a natural-history museum.
Barnes has spent over a decade cataloging the way we amass, conserve, and display elements of the natural world. His new monograph, Animal Logic, matches his images of the objects behind an exhibition — “partially wrapped specimens, anatomical models, exploded skulls, and taxidermied animals in shipping crates” — with counterparts from the real world inhabited by living wildlife.
Referencing science, history, archaeology, and anthropology, Barnes’ work offers a reminder that there is nothing inherently “natural” about going to a museum to see animals. In his photos, a plastic-wrapped giraffe is suspended in midair against the trompe l’oeil backdrop of a savannah, a pack of stuffed wolves lunges at a museum preparer inspecting blades of grass, and other creatures (leopards, emus, and bears) hang out in packing crates.