Unnatural Habitat As a photographer, I am influenced by painters in terms of my approach to light, color and atmosphere. I, too, want to express a subjective viewpoint rather than a literal depiction. For this project, I was inspired by the resplendent, dreamlike jungles of the 19th century Frenchman Henri Rousseau. The fact that he never experienced first hand the exotic flora and fauna he painted intrigues me. It seems he created them out of thin air, his imagination fueled by frequent visits to botanical gardens and dioramas in Paris. Perhaps this is why his verdant forests feel so mysterious, fantastical—even surreal. There is a theatrical sense of artifice that lends them a supernatural aura. As a result, Rousseau’s harmonious conjuring of the wilderness is infused with an unsettling domestication. With my Unnatural Habitat series, I also seek to portray a kind of forbidden paradise. My quest required me to travel no further than the beloved dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History. By experimenting with perspective, exposure and film processing, I came up with a way to transpose those airless, glass-entombed tableaux into a new incarnation: a sensory, dimensional netherworld that’s simultaneously strange and familiar, static, yet verging on believable. However, as much as one may wish it to be, this lush, vibrant microcosm is anything but real.