Venomous Creatures Become Majestic Beasts in the Photographs of Guido Mocafico

“A photograph has to provoke a reaction,” Guido Mocafico attests; accordingly, the Swiss photographer’s works compel viewers to face their fears, quite literally. Snakes, spiders, and jellyfish are among his specialties—objects of intrigue and drama that instinctually provoke human emotion, and as he proves, under the right light, are visually stunning. These three photographic series—“Serpens,” “Aranea,” and “Medusa”—are highlighted this month, together for the first time, in Hamiltons Gallery’s online exhibition, “Venenum.” 

The Guardian recently cited a survey of top fears among British people, and both snakes and spiders ranked among the top five. Mocafico plays on this reality, through pristine shots of carefully staged creatures, frozen before a pool of black, highlighting every gleaming scale and fiber. He says of snakes, “I have always been terrified by these reptiles, but I also find them terribly fascinating. I felt a sort of repulsion-attraction for these living creatures.” While snakes are often imagined as constricted coils or slimy squiggles, Mocafico’s are majestic, glossy entities that activate the picture plane. Alternatively, his perfect arachnid specimen, intricate forms with a coating of spiky fur, reinforce the inclination to be repulsed, while simultaneously inciting awe.

His jellyfish series, aptly named “Medusa” for the beautiful monsters that he so skillfully captures in motion, is perhaps even more stunning. Emphasizing their electric qualities, and the way they appear to defy gravity, he captures their dimensionality through dramatic contrasts of light and dark, and vivid, glowing colors. Shown together, each series is enhanced, sharing in common these venomous critters that Mocafico so adeptly transforms into spectacular beasts.

Guido Mocafico: Venenum” is online through Hamiltons Gallery, Apr. 2nd–May 12th, 2014.

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