In Small Deaths, Kate Breakey presented large-scale photographs of dead birds, delicate moths, and withering flowers to convey with startling beauty, both the strength and the fragility of life. Breakey referred to this series as her “attempt to memorialize these individual creatures as little representatives of all the lives and deaths that we disregard.”
Small Deaths is an ongoing series of large toned and hand-coloured photographs of the heads
and torsos of dead birds and lizards, and also of moths and withering flowers. I began this series
late in 1995 when having attempted to rescue a bird from a more violent death, it died quietly in
the palm of my hand. I am always affected by the power of this moment – witnessing the last
breath, the final heartbeat, my own quiet dismay. But then I am fascinated by what is left – a tiny
body to scrutinize in all its beautiful detail. It seems also as if in this examination of the remains, I
might comprehend what that life was, and therefore also what death is.
My work contains this desire to understand but it also becomes my attempt to memorialize these
individual creatures as little representatives of all the lives and deaths that we disregard. I
tenderly record the beautiful bodies now in transition towards decomposition and disintegration.
Soon they will be gone and there will be nothing left to see.
I wish to give these creatures dignity and I hope their images, much ‘larger than life’, give them a
power and a presence they never had. Because of their scale, the bird portraits take on an eerie
resemblance to people, the skulls look like dinosaurs, the lizards become like human figures, and
the tiny moths’ wings, like sails. In a room full of giant corpses, the images of withered flowers
become like flowers at a funeral -the sensual beauty of wrinkled, faded petals a gentler reminder
of our own mortality.
My friends and their friends give me little dead creatures as gifts, I hope it is because they know I
will try to give them life.