3.18.2008

Harri Kallio

Riviere des Anguilles #5, Mauritius - from the series The Dodo and Mauritius Island : Imaginary Encounters - Harri Kallio - 2002


Gris Gris #2, Mauritius - from the series The Dodo and Mauritius Island : Imaginary Encounters - Harri Kallio - 2001


Benares #5, Mauritius - from the series The Dodo and Mauritius Island : Imaginary Encounters - Harri Kallio - 2004

I first became aware of Harri Kallio's work from a show postcard I received for Ecotopia at the ICP (International Center of Photography) in 2006. His peculiar photographs of life-size sculptural reconstructions of the dodo, possibly the most famous (and bizarre looking) of extinct birds, get at a funny place in the human psyche. It's hard to know whether to chuckle or sigh.

Riviere des Anguilles #6, Mauritius - from the series The Dodo and Mauritius Island : Imaginary Encounters - Harri Kallio - 2002


The dodo, Raphus cucullatus, though ostrich or vulture-like in appearance, is in fact, a giant island dove, which lived only on the lonely isle of Mauritius, one of the French Mascarenes. The first written account of a living bird was perhaps that published in 1601 by the (ever-so-eloquently named) Dutchman, Jacob Cornelius-zoon van Neck. The last may have been penned by Benjamin Harry a mere 80 years later. The dodo had vanished into the annals of the extinct in the late 17th century.

The dodo's extinction came to be through an unfortunate combination of circumstances. Being an island bird, the species had no natural fear of humans. Added to this, dodos were flightless, and according to most accounts, clumsy and fat.

Though it is popular notion that dodos were killed off for their meat which was used to stock sailing ships, it is widely written that their flesh was actually unpleasant tasting and tough. It is more likely that they were yet another victim of introduced species: rats, cats and dogs that feasted on the dodo's ground-lying eggs. When added to the rapid habitat destruction caused by over-eager human beings colonizing the island the dodos had little chance.

Though no photo of a living dodo was ever taken, Kallio's pictures give us some small sense of what it would be like to see these fantastic birds in their natural environment. Errol Fuller suggests that if humans had been slightly more advised in their doings on Mauritius "Today, dodos might be as common as peacocks in ornamental gardens the world over." What a shame that we're all missing out on feeding popcorn and bread crusts at our city parks to the fat, clumsy, bizarre and wonderful dodo along side the standard fare of pigeons and squirrels

You can see more of Harri Kallio's work on his website.


Riviere des Anguilles #3, Mauritius - from the series The Dodo and Mauritius Island : Imaginary Encounters - Harri Kallio - 2001

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