Photography Professor Celebrates Life Through Portraits of Ordinary Animals in Death

June 22nd, 2017 - 2:24pm

News Contact
Nicole Cruz
Office of the Superintendent/President
(415) 485-9508

Polly Steinmetz Celebrates Life Through Portraits of Ordinary Animals in Death

Headshot of Polly, photo of alligator, photo of oak tree

KENTFIELD, CA—June 22, 2017—College of Marin (COM) Photography Professor Polly Steinmetz will show her recent photographs in a new exhibit titled Breathless at the College’s Fine Arts Gallery from July 15 to August 5.
In this show, Steinmetz demonstrates the life-affirming beauty of animals who have lost their lives in natural circumstances or accidents.

Her imagery reflects a fascination with the essence of that which has already passed, whether a dream, death, or memory. Regarding her process, Steinmetz finds the exploration of the subconscious a continuous source of curiosity and inspiration. She is also interested in the ritual of remembrance to memorialize and celebrate that for which she feels a great respect, that which is sacred.

Steinmetz, who has taught at College of Marin for 30 years, says her art asks viewers to acknowledge the animal and its life and hardships.

“I’m interested in why each animal still seems to carry so much wisdom and dignity,” says Steinmetz. “It helps me to celebrate all animal existence and our relationships with them.”

She explained that when she is given a farm animal that died in stillbirth, for example, she washes it and prepares it for a photograph with little additional intervention. Her photos are shot in soft light and printed archivally in approximately 30 by 40 inches or less.

“Each animal discovery has its own narrative which is important—the context in which it was actually discovered and what I experienced to obtain, prepare, preserve, and photograph each individual animal,” Steinmetz said. “As a society, we tend to remove death from our consciousness. And yet the most profound learning I have experienced has been through loss and the small deaths of daily life.”

Along with these portraits, Steinmetz included in the show black-and-white images made in Sacramento in the early 1900s by her great uncle, Harry Raynsford. She selected those with animals and reprinted them in the darkroom. She later collaged some to reflect layers of time, thought, and space. For Steinmetz, presenting the family heirlooms in contrast to the new photographs helped portray the continuity of life.

An opening reception with a live singing performance by Antonio Valentine will be held Saturday, July 15, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.