Fabian & Claude Walter Galerie presents “Phobias“, an exhibition by Peter Hebeisen. Phobias have been the perfect material for Hollywood fantasies for quite some time, ranging from Hitchcock’s 1963 classic “The Birds” to the 1990 blockbuster “Arachnophobia”, in which Jeff Daniels as Dr. Jennings overcomes his fear of spiders in order to save his family and an idyllic Californian hicksville from a monster spider. But fears of (wild) animals are real and quite common, whether as Orniphobia, the fear of birds, or the already mentioned Arachnophobia. And who has never heard a grown man screech like a little kid in the face of a cockroach (Katsaridaphobia) or a mouse (Musophobia)? Peter Hebeisen confronts us literally with our fears of animals in these previously unseen works, titled
“Phobias”, even if from the safe distance of their image.
Aside from a tarantula, he presents us in oversized depictions with a snake (Ophidiophobia) and a bearded dragon (Herpetophobia). Seeing these impressive photographs, one wonders how some people develop a paralyzing anxiety disorder from the mere encounter with a fascinating animal. In a way, Peter Hebeisen contrasts the currently popular photographic subject of adorable or awe-inspiring animal portrayals by artists like Nick Brandt, Jill Greenberg or Andrew Zuckerman with his somewhat darker takes on our fascination with the world’s fauna. Like the other animal portraitists, Hebeisen laboriously stages his images and works on them meticulously in post-production in order to carve out the beauty and sublimity of each depicted species.
His use of pedestals further highlights this form of staged photography and, in doing so, explores the mythological status assigned to these animals throughout our cultural history.
Fear and adoration have always gone hand-in-hand regarding these fabled creatures – snake, dragon and spider. Hebeisen’s photographs address this romanticized image of animals and point intentionally to the flip side of the coin regarding our everyday lives that are so far removed from nature, which often leads us to
oscillate between an exaggerated fondness for animals and bizarre zoophobias. But clearly, no matter whether we love or fear them, animals tend to be alien for most people today.