National Geographic Presents: Still Life

Presented by National Geographic

Curated by Sarah Leen

Featuring Rob Clark

Taxidermy has played an important role in conservation since the 1800s when it gave the public an intimate way to appreciate creatures they might never encounter in the wild. This was a time of plenty when individuals and museums, such as Charles Darwin and the Smithsonian Institution, created vast collections of creatures in the name of science that enhanced our knowledge and appreciation of the natural world.

Today the art of taxidermy is often more of a memorial and a reminder of what has been lost.

“As a kid growing up in Western Kansas, I was always scared by and yet attracted to a Polar Bear in our local Natural History museum.” Says photographer Robert Clark. ”I re-discovered my attraction to taxidermy while researching a story about extinction. The fact that hundreds of animals only exist in this form fascinated me and made me realize its historical importance.”

Robert Clark is a freelance photographer based in New York City. During his fifteen-years working with National Geographic Magazine, Clark has photographed over 30 stories, including more than a dozen covers. His story on Taxidermy is his 38th story for the magazine. In March 2003, he photographed the magazine’s first digital photographic cover. The article, “Was Darwin Wrong?” earned a National Magazine award for best essay in 2005.

Early in his career, Clark left his job with the Philadelphia Inquirer to document the lives of high school football players in Odessa, Texas with author Buzz Bissinger, for the book “Friday Night Lights.” In 2003, Anne Wilkes Tucker of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston brought Clark back to Texas to capture the first year of the new NFL team, the Houston Texans. Clark’s documentary and portraiture project resulted in one of the museums’s most popular exhibits in recent years.

Clark witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center from his rooftop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. His photos captured the second plane hitting the tower and his four picture series was widely published. His coverage on September 11th was recognized with a first place award at the World Press Awards in Amsterdam. He is currently working on a book documenting the birth of science and evolution.

He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Lai Ling and their daughter Lola.