In a northern German attic: boxes of pinned butterflies, carefully hand-coloured photographs of the local flora and fauna, hundreds of stuffed and dusty birds – Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt (1882–1940) did a great job. His collections echo a present that doesn’t exist anymore. And yet all signs of an ecological crisis can be found buried in them.
Dead or alive? There is an uncanny element in Jürgen Friedrich Mahrt’s photos: One can’t always be sure whether the animal captured in the frame is the result of hours of waiting or just a specimen staged to look lifelike. The ripples around the duck on the pond are missing, the bird of prey looks suspiciously calm directly into the lens. Mahrt crossed borders. He sacrificed his duties as a farmer to the urge to document natural environments we hardly find in nature today. Ancient forests, enchanted moors, macro views of fat, colourful caterpillars – almost magical images that make one sad in view of a variety irretrievably lost. His great-granddaughter Sönje Storm has the quiet eccentric’s estate analysed by experts, shows peat cutters, extinct species and a changing countryside. An exceedingly stimulating excursion, congenially accompanied by the scurrilous electronica sounds of Dominik Eulberg and Bertram Denzel.