A while back I featured an image of Dara Scully’s on our instagram feed and immediately it drew a lot of attention; a few were disgusted by her work while others defended it. I’ve loved her work ever since I first laid eyes on it and I embrace the fact that some of the images make the viewer a bit uncomfortable. With all due respect to the artist, I wanted to give Dara an opportunity to discuss her vision and her philosophy of childhood. I think her thoughts on it all are very beautiful and raw.
Tell us a little about who you are, where you’re from, and how you enjoy spending your time.
I’m a photographer and writer from Spain, or maybe I’m just a tree. A forest creature, a tiny animal. When I’m sad, I run naked through the fields. They’re my home, my safe place. I adore foggy days, winter and Chopin. I’d love to be a ballerina or a bird. I only drink tea with milk, and if you want to give me a book, you could try with Nabokov.
You’re not just a photographer; you’re also an illustrator and writer. Can you touch on what all three of these roles mean to you and how they’re interrelated?
I use to draw, but I’m not an illustrator. I love it, because I studied Fine Arts at university and it’s close to me, but my heart belongs to photography and writing.
I started to write when I was 13. It was my life for a long time. Then, I discovered photography. I could tell stories with pictures, and, most of the time, I didn’t need anything else. But I was a writer. Inside, in my heart, I was a writer, and finally it came out again. Now, I’m going to publish my first novel, and my world is balanced again.
I love your ‘Sleeping Beasts’ series. As the mother to two boys, I really understand both the cruelty and tenderness that define childhood. Can you talk about what prompted this series and how your subjects feel about posing with these deceased animals?
I’m obsessed with childhood. I don’t know why, because my own childhood wasn’t special or magical, and I don’t want to be a mother, but the point is: I’m obsessed. Maybe it’s because everything is so pure in childhood, so raw. They don’t understand hypocrisy or cynicism, they don’t act with duplicity. Cruelty, tenderness, evil, kindness… they feel all those feelings and show us just as they are.
About the deceased animals, the children feel a bit of curiosity, and sometimes sadness. I feel sadness too –I find all the animals in the woods, dead- and we usually talk about them and then we bury their bodies and put them into the ground again.
Your work seems to receive scrutiny from time to time, what do you say to those that challenge your artistic vision?
I only ask for respect. Childhood and death are kind of taboo, I can understand the reticence. But my work is honest, and it’s full of dedication and delicacy. Maybe you don’t like it, I accept that, but please, respect me, because I’m not doing anything cruel or immoral.
Tell me about the subjects in your images. Are they your children? How do they feel about being directed in the way that they are?
They aren’t my children. In fact, I didn’t know them three years ago. They live in my village and when I saw the boy for the first time, I thought: I need to capture him with my camera. And it just happened.
I love the idea of including children in art. People oftentimes only think of ‘unplugging’ as being associated with play, but it can also be associated with art. Wouldn’t you agree? Please elaborate.
Of course, I agree. As I said, there’s a taboo about children; we have to protect them from everything, and sometimes we’re too closed-minded. A few years ago, I exhibited Sleeping Beasts, and some people said: this artist doesn’t respect childhood. Why? Art is knowledge. Art makes us better people. My models have learned about death and respect with my pictures. Sometimes, they want to take their own pictures. It isn’t a job or an obligation for them, they really enjoy it. They want to know, they ask me questions. Is this so bad? Really?
It’s a struggle for many schools in the United States to maintain art as part of the school curriculum. How is art introduced to children in your country? Is it taught in schools? How have you taught your own children to value art and support your own work?
In my country, art is something useless. You have to be a doctor, an economist, a lawyer. When I was in high school, the art students were “lazy and stupid”. Smart people studied sciences in high school. It was a kind of rule. It sounds so sad to me right now…
What projects are you currently working on and would you mind sharing a little bit about them?
Now, I’m working in a new series called “A child is playing”. It’s something raw and disturbing, but different to Sleeping Beasts. Sleeping Beasts is full of poetry and “animal sense”, they’re like beasts in the forest. “A child is playing” is like a tale or a nightmare. These children have grown, they understand their own humanity. And they put this new knowledge into their games. And it’s scary.
You can see the first pictures by clicking here.
You can find Dara Scully on instagram by clicking here.