Constance Thalken is a photographer based in Atlanta, GA. She received her MFA in Photography from Yale University and a BFA in Psychology from Barat College. Her work has been featured in over 100 exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including the San Diego Art Institute (CA), the New Orleans Museum of Art (LA), The Light Factory (NC), Municipal Cultural Center of Ioannia (Greece), the Huntsville Museum of Art (AL), the Harn Museum of Art (FL), the Foundation Charles-Leopold Mayer (France), InLight Richmond (VA), The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (GA), the House of Culture (Brazil) and the Torpedo Factory (VA). Her work is in the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Birmingham Museum of Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, The Bunnen Collection, Yale University Library, and other private collections. Thalken has received numerous awards for her work, including research grants from Georgia State University where she is a Professor of Photography in the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design. Thalken is represented by Whitespace Gallery in Atlanta. The overarching concerns of her work are the complexities of loss and issues of mortality.
Eyes Open Slowly
The work speaks to the common nature of human life and animal life and how that commonality is manifested in our shared destiny of death.
Animals have a natural magnetism and taxidermy perpetuates the illusion of animal presence, providing an intimate experience that is impossible in real life. The animal/object dichotomy of taxidermy can be unsettling and disorienting. We are in awe of what appears to be animal, yet the actual animal is gone. Death is inherent to taxidermy and so a sense of loss or grief is part of each encounter.
Since 2013 I have been photographing in a taxidermy shop owned by an 85-year old expert taxidermist who has kept his shop in continuous operation for over 67 years. The shop itself is breathtaking. A massive amalgam of cavernous rooms, each overflows with residue from decades of working with animal skins. The diverse clientele of the shop reflects our entanglements with animals. Prominent natural history museums, the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service, wealthy game hunters, international franchise steakhouses, and local trophy seekers all procure mounting services from the shop.
I have entered this world to investigate the idea of animal essence and the emotional and psychological complexities that arise from reanimations of that essence. Whether photographing animals in the process of “becoming” or deploying abstraction to confound the reading of surface, the work uncovers our longing to connect to the natural world while questioning our urge to possess and immortalize it
To view more of Constance’s work please visit her website.