Clare Benson

Clare Benson: Pietà II, 2013. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the author.
Clara Benson’s poetic work is a tribute to her family as well as the tradition and mythology of the place she comes from.

Clare Benson’s photographs are personal, shocking and melancholic. Her most recognizable series that has won her several awards is The Shepherd’s Daughter that took six years to make. In 2017, it was published as a photobook.

Clare Benson’s poetic work is a tribute to her family as well as the tradition and mythology of the place she comes from. The viewer faces snow-covered landscapes of Michigan, staring portraits of people and images of dead animals. The text accompanying the photographs reveals two extremely important personal pieces of information: her mother died when she was still a child, leaving her to grow up with her dad, a hunter. Her grandmother and her great grandmother were also hunters. The latter may come as a surprise, yet the author explains that in those days the role of a hunter was given to women as they were the ones in charge of providing food, while the men were busy with forestry and building infrastructure.

As a photographer, she continues the hunting tradition as the process of taking a photo requires her to take aim and press the trigger. Hunting and photography do not only share a metaphorical connection; they are both marked by a desire to collect and preserve, as well as to control the living. In hunting, the relationship of power between the hunter and the prey symbolizes human supremacy over nature and the death of the latter. The relationship between the photographer and their motif is also based on an inequal distribution of power. Contrary to hunting, however, the chosen moment of reality is elevated to the level of (symbolic) immortality.

In her works, the artist depicts the transience of life and its cyclicality. The repeating image of stag antlers becomes the point of return and a new beginning. The repetitiveness addresses the concept of ritual, inevitably linked to ancient traditions, native knowledge and human connectedness to nature. She believes that it is difficult to address this connectedness in the world that does not think twice about introducing mass livestock farming and where the word ‘meat’ only denotes the cleaned and plastic-wrapped parts of animals. This creates an apparent distance from death which fails to receive any respect but is only used as a simple means of propagating humankind.

Together with images of mystical landscapes, the animals living there, and drops of blood, the Until There is No Sun series also introduces pseudoscience and its connectedness to man’s changing relationship toward nature. In measuring, documenting and mapping, Clare Benson finds contemporary successors to ancient rituals and mythology while her use of scientific texts from the past points to the fact that science also grows old, slowly turning into a myth more than anything else.

Clara Benson’s poetic work is a tribute to her family as well as the tradition and mythology of the place she comes from.


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