Having spent a few summers as a child in the North Carolina Museum of Natural History where her mother was a volunteer curator, Traer Scott developed what she calls an “immense affection for all things old and musty and mysterious, particularly preserved animals.” Years later, in 2008, Scott visited the American Museum of Natural History in New York and “accidentally” caught her husband’s reflection in the glass while she was photographing the diorama. This happy accident was the catalyst for Scott’s project, “Natural History,” currently on display at GREEN SPACE, an exhibition space at TF Green Airport in Rhode Island. Scott says “Ostrich,” (Slide 7) was the first “truly mature image” that she captured in the series. She told PDN via email it “showed me what was possible and helped to push the concept to another level. When I realized that I could encourage these unlikely subjects not only to cross paths, but to reveal a deep synthesis, I was hooked.” All of these images were created in a single exposure, juxtaposing museum visitors and taxidermy animals in their created habitats.
We asked Scott to explain the process of making these images:
“I have noticed that no one gets out of the way when an iPhone is pointed at them anymore, but when people see a big pro camera, they still immediately side step out of the line of sight. When I’m shooting ‘Natural History,’ I appear to only be photographing the dioramas when in fact, I’m stalking reflections in the glass. People walk up to the exhibit where I am standing off to one side, my camera held at chest level. I see their reflection begin to register on the glass and quickly take a shot; the flash pops, bounces off the glass and onto them. Usually the person jumps and then turns towards me in annoyance at the bright light. Whether out of irritation or true deference they then apologize for getting in my way and step back from the glass, which is of course the last thing I want them to do. They walk away and go on to the next diorama. So, I follow them and the process starts over. After about two or three of these attempts people generally get very sick of the flash and a little suspicious of me. Most leave and move on to another part of the museum and I sit and wait for the next crowd to come in.”