Nature photographer Brandon Ballengee took these incredible photos by chemically “clearing and staining” terminally deformed, 7 legged frogs he found out in nature. He calls these images “reliquaries”, which the theologians among you will recognize as the containers or vessels of holy relics- bones, tissue, or possessions of saints and revered monks.
Despite the beauty of these photos, it’s probably worth remembering that Brandon’s finding quite a few terminally deformed frogs. That may not be quite as horrifying, in concept, as that Wolverine + Kermit “horror frog” nightmare, but it does seem like animals with a bunch of extra legs should be some sort of environmental “red flag”, right? Right.
Brandon, however, doesn’t want to focus on the frogs’ deformity or sensationalize or politicize his work. Instead, he goes back to the concept of the holy and sacred:
This process (of chemically “clearing and staining”) obscures direct representation- as I do not want to exhibit large images of “monsters”, which would be frightening and be exploitative to the organisms. This process is followed by high-resolution scanner photography of each specimen to create individual portraits. These portraits are printed as unique watercolor ink prints (never made into editions) and each individual frog will be centered appearing to “float” in what looks to be clouds. This otherworldly quality is reinforced by the titles named after ancient characters from Greco-Roman mythology. They are scaled so the frogs appear approximately the size of a human toddler, in an attempt to invoke empathy in the viewer instead of detachment or fear: if they are too small they will dismissed but if they are too large they will become monsters. Each finished artwork is unique and never editioned, to recall the individual animal and become a reliquary to a short-lived non-human life.
This Brandon Ballegenée seems like a stand up guy.
You can check out the images below- along with many, many more incredible photos- at Brandon Ballengee’s Reliquaries photo gallery. If you have a few minutes, I highly recommend checking it out. Enjoy!