Pictura Gallery

Robert Langham III | The Blackfork Bestiary

September 28, 2020


Robert will tell you that this body of work generated itself. He was trying to shoot something else entirely in Smith County, Texas, but the animals kept showing up to be reckoned with, sometimes right up to his doorstep. They were briefly, gently borrowed for a photograph, then quickly returned to the places they had each been found. That Langham also gathered them into a bestiary is my favorite part of the project. The very word invokes my imagination. Here he talks about his inspiration from the archaic form.

Ancient bestiaries were the first scientific books. They cataloged living things from bees to dogs to fish.…and gave written descriptions of their defining traits: industrious, faithful, aquatic. They also cataloged animals of the imagination: the Phoenix, Unicorn, the Sea Serpent and described their magical powers. Further they wildly projected personal traits: The Lion was regal, the Fox cunning, the Owl, wise. I began to feel that our modern science, discarding those projections might have discarded something else as well.”

Langham urges us to try on that way of looking – with special fascination – with common neighborhood animals. We may have well-formed ideas of them, but we may not know them at all. In his photographs, we’re free to stare them down, face to face with a raw presence. The mystery of the individual animals themselves stays front and center. Langham’s photographs do not reduce their wildness. He does not dress them in gauze, or re-insert them into constructed environmental scenes. The humble studio set-ups are fairly simple. The human handlers are not hidden away, leaving the strangeness of the encounter between the two species inside the frame. Nature arrives alive in the tame clarity of the studio, a delicate and momentary collision.

– Lisa Woodward

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Prints available for purchase. Represented by Fotorelevance in Houston https://​fotorelevance​.com

Animals began to seek me out. Snails under the flowerpots. The 90 year old neighbor called and told me there was something wrong with her garbage can, (Opossum). A flicker worked his way into the central air ductwork. The neighbors had a pet songbird that broke his collarbone on the glass door. A friend put in sidewalk lighting and had to tread around toads who appeared to hunt it. I followed a centipede through fallen leaves. I investigated earthworms. The highway got curb and guttered and became a trap for tortoises.

No animals were injured in this project. My possession of them was brief. The more I was around them, and the more information I gathered about their lives, the more sensitive I became to them and the more interesting the connections grew. There are many lessons in the commonest of animals.

– Robert Langham III