Taxidermists show off their best

Story highlights

  • Photographer Helge Skodvin documented the World Taxidermy Championship
  • The taxidermists try to make the animals as lifelike as possible

(CNN)Lions and tigers and ... Bigfoot? Photographer Helge Skodvin saw it all last month at the World Taxidermy Championship.

More than 300 of the world's best taxidermists -- from 47 states and 14 countries -- gathered in Springfield, Missouri, to showcase their work, which included stuffed mammals, birds, fish and yes, even a Bigfoot concept.
While documenting the taxidermy, Skodvin said he focused on making each photo "as clean and simple as possible."
    At first glance, his photos may appear to be quite humorous and amusing. Take, for example, the second photo in the gallery above.
    "There is a man driving his big truck, and in the back seat there is a stuffed deer putting its head up," Skodvin said. "It's quite funny in a way. Such a normal scene -- man driving his truck -- and then there is this thing that is strange. 'Why on Earth (does he have) a deer?' "
    Photographer Helge Skodvin
    However, there is much more than meets the eye. What makes Skodvin's photos so striking is how each one exudes two very distinct elements of domination. It is as though the animals are entirely dictating the actions of the taxidermists, yet the taxidermists are in complete control of the animals.
    "Of course, without the dead animals, there is nothing," Skodvin said. "There is a need (for humans) to control nature in a way, to be on top of the animals."
    The photos raise various questions regarding our perceptions of animals. For example, would society react differently to the taxidermy of a domestic animal -- such as a dog or a cat -- compared with a wild animal like a lion or a tiger?
    "The more exotic, the better. ... We're so used to giving a dog a kiss, but we're not used to giving a lion a kiss," Skodvin said. "There are some people who make a living making your favorite cat or your favorite dog into a stuffed animal so you can always have it with you, but that's really morbid in a way."

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    The taxidermists try to make the animals as lifelike as possible.
    "With these animals in real life, (they are) really frightening and dangerous," Skodvin said. "Sometimes when the taxidermists make their piece, they make the lion into a frightening pose. ... They still want to make the leopard or the jaguar look really dangerous."
    Skodvin, who says his experience photographing the event was pure fun, looks forward to continue exploring the art.
    "I will definitely work more with this subject because it has so many layers, it's quite visual with the animals, and it also has many more deeper meanings," he said. "It brings up many questions."