Matthew Benson's medium of choice in the making of his series Birds, Beasts, and Flowers
was an unusual one—dead animals.
"I wanted to work with a medium that was very graphic and, hopefully, beautiful," says Benson. "There is something very tender and fragile about some of these secretive creatures. I wanted to spend time with something that you don't normally get to spend time with."
The series treats deceased lizards, cicadas, butterflies, and birds as sculpture, using cinnamon sticks and even a chili pepper as the canvasses.
The photographs function as capriciously visual poetry. This comes as no surprise, since D.H. Lawrence served as the inspiration for the series. Lawrence's collection of poetry, Birds, Beasts, and Flowers
, treats the natural world as Benson does: with delicacy. "There is something very melancholy about his close observations of organic detail of creatures and flowers," says Benson, whose photographs mirror Lawrence's poetry remarkably.
At an early age, Benson read Lawrence's poetry and travel writing, influencing his life and work. Before moving to New York, Benson spent a year of his life in a sailboat, photographing Mallorca, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, and Barbados. Before long, he became faced with a choice many of us in the Hudson Valley know well: "I decided at a certain point, like everybody else does, to make a decision about how much I needed New York. And I just decided that I didn't need the aggravation [of city life] anymore."
Now, Benson cultivates his obsession for horticulture at Stonegate Farm in Balmville, where he lives with his family. The vivid, colorful life of the farm certainly shows why so much of Benson's photography is focused on both living and dead things. His photographs of his home reflect a stanza from Lawrence's "Baby Tortoise": "Over the garden earth / Small bird / Over the edge of all things."
More of Benson's work can be viewed at www.matthewbenson.com
—Rebecca Wild Nelson