Fossil Woman is a photographic series inspired by Mary Anning, a pioneering fossil hunting and dealer who lived in Lyme Regis in 19th century. Lyme Regis is located in the Jurassic coast in the south-east of England, famous for its cliff formations rich in fossils from the Jurassic and Crareceous period.

 

Despite Anning many important discoveries – among them the first plesiosaurus and the first ichthyosaurus acknowledged by the Geological Society in London- were held in museums and private collections, her contributions was never officially recognised while she was alive. Anning was a woman from a working class background: two factors which didn’t help her achieving recognition among the scientific establishment. 

 

Since I began researching Anning’s story I became interested in her strong, almost ‘symbiotic’ relationship with the landscape she inhabit: the place she was born in, shaped her life and success; her work as a fossil hunter deep her connection with the landscape. Fossil hunting requires long period of search outside and great insight of the weather and other natural agents that can affect the work. It’s a an embodied experience through sight, digging, chipping and extracting a physical job that put you in close relationship with the physicality of the landscape, its texture, materiality and smells.

 

In developing this series I decided to limit my exploration to a very small area around Lyme Regis, the stretch of coastline where she used to walk to collect fossils. I choose to limit my range of actions, to be in her world, in a smaller world than mine and I gave myself the task of walking the same route over and over again. During this process I developed a relationship with the place based on repetition, the notice of mundane details and small changes in the landscape. With my camera, I re-act what a fossil hunter would do while searching for fossils: scrutinising the cliffs and beach in search of any small, big, lump or nodule sticking out of a rock which might turn out to be fossils.

 

The fossils embedded in the cliffs also call for another narrative that goes beyond the physical world: they treasure our past history, they are the fossils of our early ancestors and they are discovered (or they disappeared forever) almost by chance, depending on the weather and the tides, giving to Anning and the fossil hunters perhaps a more romantic role of medium in between two worlds, hunters that don’t kill but resurrect.