Rule Breakers: Dara Scully

“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule."

Rule Setter: Emma Kisiel, photographer and editor of Muybridge’s Horse
Rule Breaker: Dara Scully

I never want to see another photograph of a fair, waifish woman out in nature, nude or scantily clad and broken-doll-postured, her face obscured by her hair. Don't get me wrong—I love seeing photos of and by women, but this breathy, ethereal imagery is completely overdone and rarely expresses more than what's at the surface level; just spend some time browsing Flickr.

Of course, the presence of animals is always going to pique my interest, as my own photography is about animals and the website I run features art of this kind. However, this can be dangerous territory, too. We've all seen too many antlers above the head or over the face, or fawns, for instance (I get it--they've got skinny limbs and big eyes and lashes; that whole innocent look). I like to see photography that takes a risk, doesn't just follow a trend.

Dara Scully's emotive, haunting, black and white photographs explore the connection between humans and nature. The images together tell a story and each one challenges the viewer, visually and emotionally. I believe it's difficult to talk about nature without talking about death, and Scully carries this conversation well. Her photos feature dead birds and the female figure in strange interactions with trees and the soil and often tell a dark tale or describe a mournful mood. The pictures are stark and sometimes gritty; they could fit right in as stills from a film like Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. In her color work, Scully includes manipulation and collage. Her creative methods of storytelling and image-making are a refreshing take on a familiar style.

—Emma Kisiel