In the tradition of nineteenth-century postmortem photography (and mourning portraits painted centuries earlier), Fallen offers a confrontation with the dead. In this sense, the series is a sort of "corpse meditation," like that practiced by Buddhist monks who sit with dead bodies or stare at images of them for days, pondering the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. The "fallen" photographed here are bird specimens stored in natural history museums and research collections across the United States. Most of the birds were killed in the name of Enlightenment science, their deaths considered a necessary, perhaps even laudable, or at least acceptable sacrifice for the advance of human knowledge. Unlike specimens placed in dioramas and prepared for public viewing, these birds have not been made to appear alive again: they do not have artificial eyes or wings posed for flight. Their eye sockets are stuffed with cotton; their beaks and feet are bound with string. Not unlike wartime coffins or corpses that remain hidden from view by government decree, these birds and the human complicity in their deaths usually remain unseen, cloaked in the darkness of closed drawers. In this sense, the images are a call to witness, an attempt to make visible not so much the killing of these birds, or even the hundreds of thousands of other birds in collections around the world, but rather, more broadly, the increasingly disavowed entanglement of violence and "progress."
Excerpt from her essay in the FOTOFEST2006 catalogue.
JULES GREENBERG Fallen
Fallen, is a series of photographs of bird specimens collected in natural history museums in the United States. Most of the birds were killed in the name of science, their deaths considered a necessary, or at least acceptable, sacrifice for the advancement of human knowledge. Greenberg is interested in these birds for what they reveal about the relationship between violence, death and destruction and “what we call progress” — whether it be scientific understanding or the promise of “freedom” that purportedly justifies the deaths of “fallen soldiers” and others killed in war.
Jules Greenberg is the recipient of the Center for Photographic Art’s 2005 Betty & Jim Kasson Award. A San Francisco native, Jules studied at UC Berkeley and Yale University as well as Tyler School of Art in Rome. Originally drawn to photography by the work of the Farm Security Administration photographers, Jules continues to address questions of social justice, but often reaches beyond traditional documentary to explore diverse forms of portraiture and more conceptual projects. Her work has appeared in publications by Chronicle Books, Leica and UC Press and has been exhibited at the Blue Sky Gallery (Portland), Internationale Fototage (Germany), Museum of Photographic Arts (San Diego), and elsewhere in the United States and abroad.
Jules is also an advisor to Fotovision, a non-profit documentary workshop program created by the founders of the International Fund for Documentary Photography. In that capacity, Jules hopes to help launch a series of limited-edition books and has assisted in workshops with numerous acclaimed photographers, including Ken Light, Eugene Richards and Don McCullin. Jules has also coordinated and designed Art History courses for UC Extension and worked as a researcher for award-winning authors and numerous national magazines and other media, including, among others, Doubleday, Esquire, GQ, HBO, and New York Times Magazine. In addition to working as a photographer, Jules is currently an Associate Producer with Farallon Films, working on a documentary about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.