Alexandra Gibson: For Consumption Only
A year after my mother unexpectedly died, I travelled with my mentor, photography legend Mary Ellen Mark , into the hidden districts of Oaxaca, Mexico. I crossed over into the corners of a city that even locals have difficulty navigating. Yearning to literally face death with my art, and consumed by my mother’s sudden passing, I found myself compelled to photograph a local slaughterhouse. To visually capture the full severity of life and death.
The first series of shoots in the slaughterhouse, which happened in 2008, was an uncompromising examination of process and product. After almost a decade of shooting fine art erotica, my fascination with the slaughterhouse merged into my fascination with the human body. It was impossible for me to ignore this fact: the texture of pig is so similar to the texture of human.
So my initial compulsion to photograph the slaughterhouse production process quickly developed into an opportunity for powerful emotional interaction. It became a project that reached far beyond the journalistic scope of an essay on the production of meat; the series evolved into a discussion and a meditation on the fears, disgusts, and cultural barriers that surround the raw elements of death, and the tender vulnerability of the body’s life.
"For Consumption Only" aims to reinvent an often-dehumanized industry of flesh, fur, and bone. It offers confession to the basic terror of existence, and it requires all who participate, all who see it, to undress their own perceptions of survival and expiration.
Described as “sometimes bizarre, sometimes beautiful – but always layered with deep psychological undertones” by Mary Ellen Mark, this series sets out to depict the dualities of mortality, without apology and regardless of taboo. Since the beginning of production, I was granted complete access by the slaughterhouse to investigate and shoot what I saw and heard. To unveil the layers of dialogue, curiosity and confusion embedded in the rhythms of life and death. In 2011, three years after my first shoot and still very much involved in the project, I returned to Oaxaca to take the work step further.
At the second installation of shoots, I spent ten days photographing nudes inside the slaughterhouse. Nudes with the pigs and the skins. With the drying hooks and the dark, stained walls. And in keeping with the project’s intention to reconcile with my own experiences of death, I stepped out from behind the camera, joined the tribe of models, and offered my own nude body to some of the photographs.
Ten days is a long time to be in a slaughterhouse. Day after day after day we listened to the unmistakable and unforgettable sounds of dying. We studied the rhythms of slaughterhouse workers for whom this relationship with death is diurnal. One day the local crew whistled at us from beyond the brick wall. They couldn’t see us, but they knew what we were doing: willingly drifting into a graveyard, still fresh with blood while fully nude and vulnerable.
The intent for the second shoot was to create a collision: this rarely revealed environment filled with death and execution interacting with the living, sensual, and strongly emotional human. The flesh for consumption with the flesh of the consumer. With "For Consumption Only" I am exploring and exposing the most fundamental verities of our existence, and showing what in our deepest bones we all know. There is beauty in death.”
Alexandra Gibson is a photographer with a background in both art photography and journalism. Her images carry a strong sense of personal and editorial narrative with an eye for the surreal. Her most current style represents a cross-fertilization of social realism and erotica. With ten years of darkroom and printing study, Gibson marries the traditions of the photographic art to the digital.
In 2000 Gibson was commissioned by the Matthew Shepard Foundation to shoot and exhibit a photographic essay exhibition on homeless queer youth. She toured with the exhibition for a year both in USA & Canada educating persons in government, community centers, and galleries on homeless youth issues. In 2001 California Governor Gray Davis used her exhibit as a tool to facilitate the passage of a bill that assisted the transient youth community. In 2002 the Canadian Parliament gave her an award for her humanitarian efforts after members saw her exhibition at ArtsCourt Gallery in Ottawa.
In 2003 Gibson was hired to shoot and direct a documentary film for the Discovery Network on transgendered teens which aired for years. In 2004 she was hired to shoot and direct a film in collaboration with The United Nations and Global Vision for World Peace to shoot and direct a documentary on The Children of Uganda.
Gibson's photos have been published in various publications including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stones, Time Out New York, Hollywood Reporter, Frontiers Newsmagazine, Seattle Stranger, Press Tribune, and LA Weekly.
In 2003 Gibson's photographs were published in the book A Face In The Crowd. In 2008 Gibson published her first book of fine art photography called From The Outside In. In 2011 Gibson was published in Mary Ellen Mark's book on Oaxaca XV.
She has exhibited in the USA, Mexico, and Canada. Her most recent solo exhibition was at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.
For Consumption Only - Alexandra Gibson
August 4th through August 18th
6144 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232