Category: Life and Death

The Apocalypse That Wasn’t

By Rebecca Horne | July 18, 2012 12:14 pm

Architecture for Religion for Atheists

By Rebecca Horne | April 13, 2012 1:12 pm

How to Attract—Yet Stay Away From—Truly Giant Bugs

By Rebecca Horne | October 28, 2010 3:30 pm

Photographer Kris Pannecoucke was part of a six-week scientific expedition along the Congo River, the first of its size since the 1960’s. Panneoucke: “Yangambi—situated along the river and once the largest research center for tropical agriculture in the world—is in a ruined condition. Boats travel the river with 50-year-old maps made during Belgian colonial times.”

Pannecoucke took this photograph of entomologist Patrick Grootaert along the Itimbiri river, a tributary of the Congo River: “Every night entomologist Patrick hung out a white sheet and lamp to attract insects. He had to protect his ears because on earlier occasions he had some bugs stuck in his ear. He always invited us to his ‘cinema.’ And with a big bottle of beer we all waited for the insects to come.”

Grootaert collected some 5,000 specimens, including a fly that may represent a previously unknown genus. In January 2011, the scientists will hold a press conference to announce the results together with an exhibition of images in three locations: the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, and the National Botanical gardens of Belgium.

Kris Pannecoucke/Aurora Photos


Brain Surgery–All in a Day’s Work

By Rebecca Horne | September 15, 2010 9:59 am

Killers in the Night

By Rebecca Horne | September 8, 2010 5:51 pm

Don’t call these cats “kitties.” In fact, don’t call them at all. Be very, very quiet. Thanks to the light-enhancing heat-seeking technology of the “starlight” camera, you can glimpse these wild predators as they go about their grisly business. You can encounter a hidden world previously unseen by human eyes by taking in the premiere of “Night of the Lion,” Monday 13 September at 9pm on the National Geographic Channel in the UK. Stay tuned for US premiere times, or click the above “Night of the Lion” link to see clips.

Lioness killing Zebra, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania, East Africa. Image taken at night using ‘Starlight Camera’ technology without artificial lighting. Images courtesy Nature Picture Library/Martin Dohrn

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Life and Death, Top Posts

Life in the Shadow of Coal

By Rebecca Horne | August 13, 2010 4:19 pm

This photograph was made in a small town in Southeast Ohio, along the Ohio river, called Cheshire. To the left you can see the Gavin Power Plant, a coal-fired plant that provides electricity to Ohio, Appalachia, and the greater Northeast. The coal that is burned at Gavin Power comes in part from mountaintop removal mines in Appalachia. In 2002, shortly after federal health experts confirmed that the blue sulphuric clouds from the plant endangered the residents of the town, the American Electric Power company bought the entire village of Cheshire for $20 million, and the residents of Cheshire agreed to relocate. Photographer Daniel Shea has been working on a long-term project to explore the social and environmental impacts of coal in Southeast Ohio and Appalachia.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Life and Death

If You Want to Make a Brain Map, You Have to Slice up Some Brains

By Rebecca Horne | June 23, 2010 6:10 pm

Jacopo Annese, Director of the Brain Observatory at the University of California at San Diego and his team are creating open-access, high-resolution, three-dimensional atlases of the human brain. This is done through a painstaking and exacting process of slicing brain specimens tissue thin, drying, staining, storing them, scanning each slice in stunningly high resolution and finally serving it all up digitally as a virtual model.

While shooting at the Brain Observatory at the University of California at San Diego, Spencer Lowell photographed floor-to-ceiling freezers loaded with brains in giant plastic buckets, high-tech slicers being used to dice frozen human brains, and laboratory assistants meticulously unfolding gauzy brain slices with paintbrushes onto glass slides. Lowell noted that the Brain Observatory Director Jacopo Annese came across as a humanitarian as well as a neurological anatomist. Lowell: “Jacopo Annese’s job may be to orchestrate the dissecting, preserving, categorizing, and digitally archiving the brains of his donors, but he seemed to genuinely care as much about what the donors were like while they were alive. Since he’s recording what a person’s brain looks like after having lived a life full of experiences, he stressed the importance of learning about those experiences and how they could have imprinted the brain.”

Indeed, much of the emphasis at the Brain Observatory and its related brain library project will be on finding donors who are able to participate in a monitoring, data-gathering program while they are still alive and healthy. The intended purpose would be to link this more personal information–an anonymous narrative biography, for example, to the scientific brain data to create a more complete picture.

Photograph by Spencer Lowell

Brain specimen at UCSD’s Brain Obervatory, Nov 18th, 2009

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Life and Death, medicine

The Bright Heads of Levi van Veluw

By Rebecca Horne | June 8, 2010 12:07 pm



The first image in this gallery of images from Dutch artist Levi van Veluw shows the result of van Veluw covering his head with light-generating foil. Photographed in total darkness, the radiant bright blue light produced by this material defines the shape of his head. Van Veluw’s photo series are self-portraits, created and photographed by himself in a completely solo process. The work simultaneously suggests visions of primitive and futuristic humankind, in the archetypal language of fairy tales.

Of his own work, Levi van Veluw writes: “The images that I make consist of often unlogical combinations of materials, patterns, colours, forms, with my head as the only constant factor. Each element is consciously chosen so as to affect a pre-determined transformation. By playing with the value of the each material and by using them for a purpose that was not originally intended for them, I construct within the image, in a very small way, a different perspective on the world.”

All images courtesy Levi van Veluw

Light II, 2009

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ideas, Life and Death

Strictly Death

By Rebecca Horne | March 3, 2010 10:46 am

Wilson Hand Kidde, Pearly Man Skull, 2007

Images from Strictly Death: Selected Works from the Richard Harris Collection, on display in the Slought Foundation galleries in Philadelphia from January 23 through March 8, 2010. Strictly Death is an exhibition exploring the iconography of death across a range of artistic practices. It features contemporary artists including Jasper Johns, Robert Mapplethorpe, Kiki Smith, Irving Penn, Vik Muniz, Andres Serrano, and Sally Mann, alongside historical works by Durer, Rembrandt, and Goya. The exhibition includes artifacts including miniature bone carvings by Napoleonic prisoners, and baroque bronze skulls.

All images Courtesy of Slought Foundation, the Richard Harris Collection and Balloon Contemporary


Library of Dust

By Rebecca Horne | March 2, 2010 3:49 pm


David Maisel’s large-scale photographs display copper canisters that hold the ashes of psychiatric hospital patients. The Oregon State Hospital, in Salem, inaugurated as the Oregon State Insane Asylum in 1883, stored the remains of over 5000 people in canisters in an underground vault in the mid-1970s. The vault flooded repeatedly, and the canisters—some containing unclaimed remains more than a 100 years old—underwent spectacular processes of deterioration.

Maisel writes: “The copper canisters have a handmade quality; they are at turns burnished or dull; corrosion blooms wildly from the leaden seams and across the surfaces of many of the cans. Numbers are stamped into each lid; the lowest number is 01, and the highest is 5,118. The vestiges of paper labels with the names of the dead, the etching of the copper, and the intensely hued colors of the blooming minerals combine to individuate the canisters. These deformations sometimes evoke the celestial — the Northern Lights, the moons of some alien planet, or constellations in the night sky.” David Maisel’s Library of Dust is the subject of a large-scaled monograph released by Chronicle Books in 2008.

All images are by David Maisel, courtesy Von Lintel Gallery.


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