Deborah Samuel’s ELEGY is a project borne out of loss and anger. Loss came with the passing of loved ones; anger, in the wake of the environmental degradation caused by the 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. After she was prevented from photographing oil-slicked birds in Louisiana, Samuel took an intimate tack, placing the skeletons of avians and other animals on a flatbed scanner. The resulting series of images capture a meditative and haunting portrait of natural fragility, a narrative of survival and death that speaks to the struggles faced by all living creatures. Depicting the beauty of the natural form and the complexity of the structures that sustain life on our planet, the exhibition features a selection of 33 photographs, including ten commissioned by the ROM using specimens from their collection.
ELEGY suggests imagined relationships to pose questions about the persistence of the spirit as an animating life force located deep within the animal form. Rather than treating death as a void, Samuel’s work evokes the accepting outlook typical of indigenous celebrations like Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. ELEGY is a record of both what has been, and what remains.