Museums and photography share a certain authority. Both are readily trusted by the public as purveyors of fact, yet both are inherently fictitious. They inevitably distort their subject by removing it from its original context and setting it in a box, frozen in time. Museum dioramas contain a world of plastic shrubs and stuffed animals within their painted walls, but the museum’s air of authenticity persuades viewers to animate the scene with their imaginations, to ignore the artifice and believe what they see. The Pinchbeck Habitats, like the dioramas, combine three dimensions with two and blend the real with the constructed, creating an illusion of reality. But in these habitats the manipulation and distortion are brought to the foreground, pushing the limits of the imagination and trust of their viewers. They are not posing as “the real thing.” The reproductions are inaccurate and the flaws are explicit. Despite this, the power of photography forces the viewer to suspend disbelief for the sake of wonder.
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