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The oldest animal in the world in a new light

My latest project is a self-negotiated one. Being a historical zoologist via my first degree, natural history is always something that I feel a need to express through my art. As a child I was obsessed with a small crustacean called Triops. This incredible organism is cited as the oldest animal in the world and its eggs can survive out of water for years until they then hatch once re-hydrated. They are extremely rare in the UK and found at only 2 sites. So my dream as a keen young naturalist was to find one, which of course I didn’t.

I’m still fascinated by this creature – in how it has remained unchanged for over 200 million years. It has watched humans populate the earth, create machines and begin the pollute and destroy the planet and themselves at the same time. It will probably outlive the human species so who is the real winner?

So began the project. I liked the sense that Triops was not a primitive species at all but actually the ultimate species. It has been lying around observing us all this time and watching with confusion as we have battled for power in a primitive way despite our advanced brains.

The first experiment has been to print a Triops mask and asked a willing model (my 21 year old) to wear it in various obscure locations. I’m quite pleased with the initial results. The shot in the oil seed field gives a real sense of unwanted discovery and the direct look to camera is quite unnerving. The shot taken near the airport has a B movie reference – North by Northwest comes to mind and it looks like a spotter plane has seen our character who is now rooted to the spot. The shot on the derelict bridge is slightly surreal and was a chance capture; it gives a sense that the character is floating above the spoils of human invention – it does not need human structures to travel and just walks right over them.

It’s been very entertaining capturing these images so far so we will continue – just as long as my model has the nerve to wear a mask and second hand suit.

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