Photos of Skulls – inspired by Andreas Feininger

As a teenager I lived in downtown Hamilton, Ontario. A couple of blocks from my house was King Street, the main east-west corridor through the heart of downtown. In my neck of the woods was what the city fathers dubbed “the International Village” which is mostly gone now, but at the time it consisted of a Chinese Restaurant, a German deli, a German restaurant, and a German-language bookstore. The bookstore was one of the first casualties of the area’s economic decline in the 80s and they were selling off books cheap – as I had picked up some German from high school classes, I wandered in.  I picked up a great large-format book of black and white photographs by Andreas Feininger called das Antlitz der Natur (published in English as the Anatomy of Nature), a collection mostly of skeletal anatomy photos. Many of the pictures had appeared in LIFE magazine in 1951, perhaps unsurprisingly as Feininger was a staff photographer for LIFE at the time. Feininger is best known for artistic nudes and architecture like New York in the 40s, but I didn’t know that at the time – I was simply enthralled by das Antlitz der Natur.

As it happens, over the years I have amassed a skull collection of my own. A few years back I was paging through the Feininger book and thought I’d try some photos of my own using whatever small lights I had around the house. I took a metric heckload of shots, but these are my three favourites:

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out. So yeah, take inspiration from what’s around you. If you’re interested in trying this at home,  pick up a copy of das Antlitz der Natur (or the Anatomy of Nature if you prefer) for reference, and start setting up the lights! It doesn’t have to be skulls, of course, but they really are awfully attractive forms.