- Photographer Christian Voigt travels to museums in Europe to take photographs of extinct dinosaurs, mastodons, and saber-toothed cats.
- Voigt uses a black cloth backdrop and natural light to capture each skeleton individually and in detail.
- His goal is to “bring these creatures back to life” through his photography, Voigt said.
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Travelling back in time to the age of the dinosaurs is beyond the reach of science. But that doesn’t stop photographer Christian Voigt from trying to re-animate creatures from the Mesozoic era through the lens of his camera.
Voigt has travelled to five natural history museums across Europe to photograph dinosaurs and other extinct animals’ skeletons, producing a collection of images that depict these long-dead creatures in a new light.
“I sought to really bring these animals to life,” Voigt told Business Insider, adding, “I have to remind people that these aren’t Hollywood images, but rather real animals that lived millions of years ago.”
But photographing museum specimens presents unique challenges for a photographer, since the skeletons cannot be shifted, posed, or removed from their display cases. Museums also restrict the use of additional lightning, so Voigt photographs the dinosaurs using only natural light and relies on a black back-drop to separate each animal from its neighbours.
“I can’t touch them, or ask them to move a little to left, so I have to look for the best angle,” he said.
Voigt said he was inspired to work with dinosaur skeletons after a visit to the Natural History Museum in London some years ago. Seeing the displays made him want to photograph each specimen individually.
“It all started with wanting to bring these animals out of their glass boxes,” he said. “In a museum, when you look at certain collections of animals and skeletons, they’re always very packed together.”
He said he sometimes spends an hour finding and capture a single, ideal shot. The resulting images reveal every groove, divot, and eye socket of the skeletal bodies of creatures like the triceratops, T. rex, and stegosaurus.
Here are 15 breath-taking images from Voigt’s collection.
This Tyrannosaurus rex resides in the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany.
The T. rex had orange-sized eyes that faced forward like a hawk’s and were spread apart on its face, giving it superior depth perception during a hunt.
Voigt only photographs original fossils, not replicas or reconstructions that use plastic or plaster to fill in gaps. “I can see the difference, and I won’t use those skeletons,” he said.
Voigt photographed this T. Rex, Rocky, at the Dinosaur Museum Altmühltal in Denkendorf, Germany.
A full-grown Tyrannosaurus rex weighed about 6 to 9 tons. It stood about 12 to 13 feet tall at the hip and was about 40 to 43 feet long.
Tristan, a T. rex whose skull resides in the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, Germany, boasts impressive teeth. “I’m absolutely in love with details,” Voigt said. “That’s a big part of my work.”
The predator used its massive jaws, filled with sharp teeth that constantly grew back, to hunt prey. The T. rex could bite through solid bone and digest it.
The 8-foot-long, 180-pound Dysalotosaurus Lettowvorbecki, whose name means “uncatchable lizard,” dined on plants.
Voigt captured this photo in the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, Germany.
Voigt said he chooses to photograph lesser known dinos, like the Dysalotosaurus, on purpose.
But the crowning jewel of Voigt’s collection might be this saber-toothed cat from the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany.
The saber-toothed tiger lived in North and South America between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago. It was smaller than a modern-day lion, but weighed twice as much.
That wasn’t Voigt’s favourite creature, however. He said his most beloved dinosaur is the Triceratops in the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany.
Stygimoloch Spinifer, known as the “spiny river devil,” is another one of Voigt’s favourites. “Its head looks really like a dragon,” he said.
Stygimoloch is a type of pachycephalosaur: dinosaurs with thick domed skulls that males used to vye for dominance.
This skeleton is located in the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, Germany.
Voigt’s photos don’t focus solely on dinosaurs, though. This picture shows “Dracula”, the largest pterosaur ever found. The flying reptile had a neck as wide as a full-grown man.
Pterosaurs were dinosaur relatives. This one was discovered in Sebes, a small village in Romanian Transylvania – hence its name. It can be found in the Dinosaur Museum Altmühltal in Denkendorf, Germany.
Voigt also put an American mastodon (a distant relative of the modern elephant) in the spotlight. The creature weighed 6 tons and went extinct 10,000 years ago in North America.
The fossil resides in the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany.
Gomphotherium angustidens, whose name means “welded beast,” is also an elephant relative.
Voigt photographed this animal’s four tusks (two on the upper jaw and two on the elongated lower jaw) in the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany.
Ultimately, Voigt said he’s still waiting for a few “dream” photo opportunities at the Chicago Field Museum and the American Museum of Natural History in New York to complete his collection.
“Those places have animal that are in perfect condition, and that’s what I’m hunting for,” he added.
That said, Voigt has captured many remarkable shots already, including this Stegosaurus at the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany. The image shows the animal’s skeletal plates jutting out like sails from its back.
The Kentrosaurus aethiopicus had similar back plates. The animal these bones belonged to would have weighed more than 2 tons.
This skeleton is housed in the Museum of Natural History in Berlin, Germany.
Voigt said he wishes more people knew about dinosaurs from visits to museums, rather than from watching Hollywood movies.
This skeleton of an Euoplocephalus, a type of dinosaur with a club tail and armour-covered back, resides in the Senckenberg Naturmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany.
He said the experience of photographing dinosaurs, including this Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis in London’s Natural History Museum, has led him to think more about humanity’s relationship with extinct creatures.
“We are part of the same evolution, living on the same planet,” Voigt said. “The more time I spend with the dinosaur skeletons, the more I wonder what happened to them, and in turn, what will happen to us?”
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