24 Jun Slitherstition | A Series of Snakes Photographed by Andrew McGibbon
“For as long as groups of humans have agreed on patterns of belief, symbols have existed, with signs of light and dark – good and evil – the most prominent among them.
Like building blocks for morality, these symbols, particular, of course, to cultures and religions, are familiar to us all, and taught from an early age in stories – a means for our elders to pass down their values and cautionary tales. It seems to me that in these, no symbol appears more frequently than the snake. From Christianity’s Original Sin to Hadiths in Islam; Zulu tradition and iconography drawn from the Ancient Egyptians, in a world history so diverse and conflicted one thing appears to be agreed on: the snake is to be feared.
As with all victims of an ‘othering’ process, the serpent deserves a second look, beyond its slithering and dark hypnosis,” says photographer Andrew McGibbon.
And so, in an endeavour to break down our suppositions that snakes are inherently evil, Andrew has created a series of photographs called Slitherstition which depicts a variety of snakes on brightly coloured backgrounds to emphasise their enchanting beauty and design.
Naturally, we were curious as to how Andrew gained access to so many to begin with, who says that “It was actually quite easy. I first approached an exotic pet store here in Durban and they were keen for me to photograph their snakes as I requested. We setup in their shop and it went really well except that they didn’t have many venomous snakes. I felt that the series needed a cross section of big and small; venomous and constrictor; bright and muted. Then, through a post on Facebook I found Tyrone Ping who is a local snake authority. He teaches about them and breeds them. He was keen to get involved, so over two Saturdays he brought all kinds of awesome snakes to my studio. So, two sources, two locations/studio settings and three days is all it took.”
Andrew started photographing animals in his pursuit of the unique, and has gained a fair amount of experience photographing them since – from horses, to cows, to roosters. As a result he’s developed an understanding of the basics to have in place when doing so and has come to realise that whether it’s a person or a human, he still approaches it as portraiture.
“I think that through my preparation, both equipment-wise and mentally, the actual shoots went really well,” he explains of the process behind the series. “The day we worked with the Green Mamba, Tyrone mentioned that he doubted that we would get anything good with it but it posed so well and almost played along like it knew what we were doing! So perhaps I am a snake whisperer! Having said that, you really do need lots of patience and a quick trigger finger to pull it off.”
Overall, Andrew found creating Slitherstition to be completely enthralling, saying: “I like to embark on journeys of discovery when creating. I am not a horse person at all so I did a series on horses to learn about them and experience them. Likewise, I had never held a snake in my life and knew very little about them so that was partially the reason I did this series. As a photographer I get to experience first-hand, with the help of experts, so many things! It’s really amazing and I am really grateful to be able to do it. I relish the entire creative process, from conception to execution to the big reveal and then of course the responses of the viewer. It is very fulfilling.”