The subject and the idea for this book project presented themselves to me during one of my frequent visits to my family in southern California. I was walking on the beach at Ventura Harbor one day recently when I happened to notice an unusual number of dead birds along the shore. I had of course seen dead birds there before, but not like this time when there seemed to be a bird corpse every fifty or hundred feet, bringing to my mind Mathew Brady’s images of scattered corpses of the dead soldiers in the American Civil War.
Feeling somewhat intrigued I looked closely at the dead birds perhaps for the first time. There were different kinds of birds that populate that part of the California shore: sea gulls, herons, cormorants, pelicans, other shore birds. And the more I looked the more fascinated I became, not just with the question as to what was killing them, but with the sheer physical reality of these corpses. I was so taken in by the tone and the texture of their bodies that after a while the idea of what I was looking at being dead bodies became unimportant. It all became abstract to me. The texture of their bodies appeared to me to be the texture of death itself. What I was looking at was decay, degeneration, and the slow but natural process of life turning into dust and nothingness.
I was reminded of the fascination that Death has had on thinkers, philosophers, poets and artists since the beginning of humanity. Were the ancient pyramids in Egypt, besides being tombs for the pharaohs, not also a monument to Death itself?
Artists like Damien Hirst have taken to utilize a dead body’s shocking impact to shake the viewer from complacency about life. More recently the wide popularity of the exhibit “Bodies” attests to the fascination that living humans feel with the hard physical nature of a dead body.
In some small way my own eyes were forced by the dead birds on the beach to see how death looks, animal or human.
Originally from India, Arvind Garg moved to the United States in 1976. Since 1985 he has lived and worked as a fine art photographer in New York City. Arvind's images are in the permanent collections of the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum, Herbert Johnson Museum, Cornell University, Madison Art Center, Wisconsin, the Historical Society of Wisconsin, as well as in several corporate and individual art collections. Arvind is a contributing member of Corbis and Getty Images photo agencies.
Beach Jewels Published November 07, 2015
Bandit Queens of Chandigarh Published January 26, 2015
PATAGONIA to ANTARCTICA Published August 16, 2014
Bathinda Published March 31, 2014
Bhabi Published November 04, 2013
Celebrating Central Park Published May 30, 2013
Madison Published May 30, 2013
Fortunate in Friends Published April 22, 2013