I came across the work of photographer Nina Katchadourian a while ago, and was really taken by two of her projects: in the first, she mended spider’s webs with red thread and the in the second, she patched cracks in mushrooms with bicycle repair kits.
The spiders would often react to the repair by pulling out the red threads, leaving a pile of them on the ground below. You can imagine them being disgusted at the standard of workmanship and outraged at the use of red thread!
There’s something very playful and whimsical about this that I find enchanting, but it does pose some more serious questions about our interactions with nature. Should we intervene? Katchadourian says that she often destroyed the web further in her efforts to do the repair. Sometimes we just blunder in and make things worse.
It reminds me of the story of a man who saw a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon and ‘helped’ it by pulling the cocoon apart. What he didn’t realise was that the struggle to emerge was designed to force fluid from the butterfly’s body into its wings and that, without this struggle, the butterfly’s wings would never form enough to fly.
Putting all that aside, I do think there’s a wonderful innocence in the notion of repairing webs and mushrooms that takes us back in time to childhood when magic was around every corner and everything was possible. It’s refreshing to come across work that just has to make you smile.
Photo challenge: what could you do to ‘repair’ nature and then photograph it?