“The narrow abyss,” is a phrase coined by author, historian, and critic John Berger in his 1980 work About Looking. It is meant to describe the paradoxical divide between human and animal life, and more pointedly, death. That is to say, though we as humans share mortality with other animals, there is still a metaphorical crevasse separating our experiences from one another.
This body of work explores the moments in which human and animal bodies traverse, or bridge, the gap between our experiences and become shared. It is an examination both of our disconnection with animal life, death, and bodily experience, and of our fragile similarities. I am interested in the visible vestiges of human and animal physical experience, and how they illuminate our experiences as corporeal beings.
I’m currently interested in birds, because I believe them to be the embodiment of Berger’s “narrow abyss.” They are seemingly so unlike us [human] physically- but simultaneously, are cognizant, can perform rituals and songs, and maintain social practices. They are ancient, ephemeral, and yet, simple. To draw a parallel between humans and birds is seemingly impossible, but concurrently, in my view, necessary.
Berger once wrote that animals “entered into the human imagination first as messengers and promises.” I see animals that way as well: as signs of change, impending doom, promise, and most of all- the assurance that we as humans are impermanent. The Narrow Abyss is a collection of images almost entirely in and around my home in Nacogdoches, Texas from the past two years. It is one of the first stops for birds on migratory paths as they return to the Northern regions of the United States each spring.
Each year during migration, I find fallen birds around my small home. This May I found more than the previous. These photographs are my own interpretations of my interactions with the animals and landscape in East Texas, and similarly to Berger’s animal-messengers, as reminders; indication of changes yet to come.