For many children, their first exposure to death occurs with the death of an animal. Whether it's a beloved family fish who's lived out its last days or an unknown critter run over by a vehicle on the side of the road, animals often spark a naive mind's first meditations on life versus death.
Russian photographer Maria Ionova-Gribina is revisiting those early encounters and all the queasy feelings, goosebumps, questions and tears that came along with them. In her heartbreaking photo series, "Natura Morta," Ionova-Gribina honors the dead animals she encountered on her summer bicycle rides to the sea. All died from natural causes or a moving vehicle, and were discovered shortly after their passing.
"I wanted to find a way to save them for the world of art," she explains in her artist statement. "They were so unprotected… One or two days more and they would be eaten by worms." To preserve the memory of these unknown creatures, Ionova-Gribina arranged them in a vibrant array of flowers gathered from her backyard and the areas surrounding the animal's final resting place.
The odd images, deeply sad and yet somewhat nostalgic, recall memories of burying your first pet or even a lone bug found on the road. "During my childhood, me and my brother buried dead moles, birds or bugs that we found on the border of a forest. And we decorated the grave with flowers and stones. Probably it was a children’s curiosity, our first studies of mortality. In this project I work with my childhood memories and with the subject of life and death."
Take a look at Ionova-Gribina's vibrant memorials to unknown birds, rabbits and squirrels gone too soon and let your mind wander back to your earliest understandings of life's inevitable end.