The elusive mountain hare is found in elevated regions of northern Scotland. Historical folklore has often regarded the hare to have close ties with the witches of the land. If you’re lucky, you might see the back of one as it sprints away into the hills and if you were to meet one face to face, its deeply rounded eyes and pinned back ears might entrance you with a spell-like charm that converts your belief to the ancient tales told. It seems fitting then, that its scientific name Lepus timidus, the highbrow name used by scientists, biologists and professional naturalists around the world, translates to ‘timid charm’.
Photographic project In Dies, Latin for everyday, encourages you to look at the wildlife around you. The scientific Latin names that have often been created by the people who discovered a species, and are taken so seriously by industry professionals, are pulled apart in this project. Explore the details of each species that stood out the most to the person(s) who found it and have been lost or overlooked within our everyday language. Transport back into their shoes and rediscover the everyday species found on your doorstep!
In Dies grew through an exploration of our connection to the natural world across various cultures. Common names given to wildlife are used to represent individual species, for example the red deer is a descriptive representation of this type of deer, however these names vary depending on the geographical location of the species. The translation of common names across various languages provide us with an insight into the culture surrounding the language. While the red deer’s French name (cerf élaphe) translates to the same, the Spanish name (ciervo común) translates to common deer and German name (edelhirsch) translates to noble deer. Where one culture refers to this deer as common and the another refers to it as noble, confusion is inevitable within international communication.
During the 18th century, the foundation of modern day taxonomy was invented, creating a universal language for the natural world. Swedish botanist Carl von Linne created the ‘Linnaean System’ as a systematic way to categorise each individual species in the natural world, using the language of New Latin. Today, its heavy use in academia renders it unattractive jargon to the everyday person, making it easily overlooked. The Linnaean system involves a hierarchy of taxa that allows each species to be grouped into different categories according to their biological differences. The scientific name of a species, which this project explores, is a two part name known as a binomial. Binomials are often created by the person who has discovered the species, and tend to reflect its distinctive features through combinations of words and languages that translate to innocently literal, and sometimes even comical, meanings! The first part of the name refers to the ‘genus’ of the species, which is shared with other species of the same classification. The ‘species’ makes up the second part of the name, which refers to the specific individual.
In Summer 2018, In Dies was exhibited as a photographic installation. Images were selected from six generalised animal categories and presented in two forms; species from woodland habitats were printed onto wood slices, while species found around water habitats were submerged or placed onto water. Audiences were invited to touch and interact with the photographs on the printed materials in order to build a connection between the viewer and environment, and also to allow the viewer to lift and view each piece through their own perspective.