Florida-based photographer Erika Masterson’s Parts of the Earth series started with a portrait she took of her niece with a pheasant (Refuge), leading to Keeper – the girl with the coyote. After entering several of her images into competitions and winning, Masterson continued the theme, finding the animals through clients, collectors and a taxidermy store located in Miami called ‘Art by God’.
Photographed against plain backgrounds, the girls stand alone with the animals in these timeless portraits highlighting our connection to the natural world. While many of the animals pictured here are natural predators in the wild, the girls pose at ease with them, creating a sense of harmony between the girls and the animals.
To achieve the vintage look, Masterson chose to shoot all the images on 4×5 film because she explains, “I love film and luminous quality it has, and I wanted to show all the beautiful details of the animals and the eyes of the girls.”
The series is particularly resonant today as environmental change continues to threaten various populations of the animal kingdom, including the lion and the polar bear. “In the work I revisit our relationship with nature and the vulnerability of the human spirit,” the photographer says. “In the images the animals are wild, yet the girls are in total submission without fear of harm. This is the type of trust that enables us to let go of our burdens and find forgiveness. The animals, which are beautifully preserved, represent the legacy that we as humans leave behind.”
All images © Erika Masterson