Portland-based artist and photographer Tamara Lischka takes fear and sorrow into her own hands and transforms it into a beautifully poignant art form. Her photo series, Important Things, is a powerfully tender portrait collection of unborn creatures, held in Lischka's nurturing palms. The content matter is slightly unsettling, yet Lischka captures a moment in the life cycle that humans rarely see. She reveals how alien and animalistic we all started out, by juxtaposing the webbed feet of human fetuses and hatched gator babes. Throughout the sadness of stillness, Lischka's hand provides a live touch—a softness—to the portraits that gives the reverence these small creatures deserve.
Lischka's curiosity of small bodies, barely alive, began long ago. She says in her artist's statement: “When I was a child I occasionally found mermaid’s purses – egg cases for sharks and skates which had washed up on the beach. I wanted to open the purses, to find out if the leathery sacks actually contained a baby shark or not, but spent long minutes filled with anxiety about what I would see if I did. Would the fish still be alive? Would it squirm or move? Having destroyed its haven, could I really just stand there and watch the fetus die? Eventually such thoughts eclipsed all curiosity, and so I always put the purse back down on the sand and left it undisturbed.”
As she has developed as an artist and a human in the world, Lischka's mind and hands have opened up, leaving secrets and shame vulnerable to the open air. “Long sequestered thoughts and feelings [are] finally examined and revealed,” she states. “Fetus, fish, squid – the lifeless bodies of these creatures appear eerily animate, even grotesque out of context. Yet the hands that hold them nurture as much as they expose, fingers curving around the tiny forms, even as they lift them gently up into the light.”