Traer Scott’s ‘Natural History’ Photography Exhibit Merges the Living and the Dead

February 7, 2014 by University of La Verne

History is seen through the eyes of visitors to Traer Scott’s “Natural History” photography exhibition at the University of La Verne Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography.

The exhibit, which opened February 3 and will extend through Friday, April 4, shows the reflections of onlookers at various natural history displays. Scott captured their expressions in the glass that separated them from the animals on display.

“Natural History is a series of completely candid, in-camera single exposure images that merge the living and the dead, creating allegorical narratives of our troubled co-existence with nature,” Scott said. “Ghost-like reflections of modern visitors viewing wildlife dioramas are juxtaposed against the taxidermied subjects themselves, housed behind the thick glass with their faces molded into permanent expressions of fear, aggression or fleeting passivity.”

Scott’s first encounters with natural history exhibits took place during the summer of her ninth and tenth years when her mother, who was a curator at a local natural history museum, kept her there instead of hiring a babysitter.Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 1.47.24 PM

“I spent very long, solitary weeks communing with the museum’s animals, both living and dead, as well as operating the manual elevator for employees and rummaging through the museum’s disheveled collection of mite-riddled, century-old periodicals and books,” Scott said.

She said she captured a reflection of her husband in the glass that framed an ostrich at the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 2008 and a few months later she visited diorama exhibits throughout the country to capture additional images.

“It is both exhilarating and humbling to be the catalyst for these truly alchemical images which are set against a century old stage and born of random timing and fractured light,” Scott said. “Every image is like solving a mystery that I didn’t know existed.”

Assisting in curatorial service for Scott’s exhibition is Stacey McCarroll Cutshaw, Visiting Professor of Photography. Photography Department Manager Kevin Bowman is responsible for gallery production, promotion and installation.

Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Aaron Baker, and Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dr. Kanya Godde wrote accompanying reflection essays, which are featured in the gallery catalog.

In addition to being a photographer, Scott is an exhibiting artist, a teacher, a freelancer and a bestselling author.

Her work has been featured in National Geographic,, Popular Photography, The British Journal of Photography and several other publications.

Scott will be present for a virtual reception scheduled in the Gallery for Thursday, February 20, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Admission to the reception is free and open to the public. Gallery hours extend from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Questions about the exhibition should be directed to Stacey McCarroll-Cutshaw, Visiting Professor of Photography, at (909) 448-4088 or

When: February 3 – April 4
Opening reception February 20, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Where: University of La Verne, Irene Carlson Gallery, 1950 Third St., La Verne, CA 91750

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