“A peculiar convergence of death/life and permanence/impermanence occurred during the period I made these images. 'Death is not here' is a personal time capsule capturing and preserving this time in my life.” - Wouter Van de Voorde
‘Death is not here’ combines disparate photographs created by artist Wouter Van de Voorde. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, he was about to become a father for the second time. He had been making still lifes with fossils, and in his spare time he had begun digging in the backyard with his son unearthing the grave of a family chicken. Photographs of subsequent excavations, rock sculptures, an eroded gorge and an ongoing preoccupation with ravens are combined to create a new narrative representing everyday encounters between life and death.
The book is punctuated with disquieting and ambiguous photographs of hand dug holes. The original impetus to create a hole was a request from Van de Voorde's son to play real-life Minecraft and so they began digging in the backyard. As the hole grew deeper and wider, Van de Voorde became fascinated with the void and began experimenting with drawing the outlines of the holes with flames. Upon unearthing the grave of a departed chicken, the bones visible, they harvested clay and used to fire small objects, such as a skull pictured in the book. The images of the backyard voids are interspersed with photographs of the artist's son exploring an eroded gorge, which appears like a giant version of their backyard excavations—father and son sharing explorations of what lies beneath.
Van de Voorde's fossil collection, which features in the still lifes in the book, was driven by the excitement of the 'hunt'—hammering large rocks to see what lay inside, buried for millions of years. The artist's fascination revolves around the sheer age of the stones compared with the length of human life, the fossils' permanence and the stack's impermanence.
The theme of the peripheries between life and death, and ancient and the now, are explored further in Van de Voorde's ongoing documentation of Australian ravens. In 2018, following a gift of a telescopic lens, he began documenting Australian ravens—obsessed by their parallel airborne society co-existing alongside the human one. Across many cultures, the raven is seen as a mediator between life and death, sometimes an ill omen of loss and others of prophecy and insight. At first, Van de Voorde photographed the ravens with caution, viewing them as ominous bringers of bad news. But, over time, his perceptions of the birds changed to a tenderness, fuelled by his privilege in observing moments of this community of magical creatures inhabiting both our world and another.