Portfolio: Mark Laita
Sunday 24 February 2013
Eve's encounter didn't turn out too well, Medusa's hair was a mess, while Disney turned Mowgli's mentor into a mendacious maneater.
Yet, however much these cultural encounters might demand we recoil from the serpent, we are also left with an overriding, abstract impression of its mesmeric quality – a hypnotic essence that inspired the American photographer Mark Laita to spend a year documenting nearly 100 of the world's most venomous examples. His subjects, he has said, were "compelling, sensual and captivating. I'm not trying to show you what, say, a Mexican black kingsnake looks like. It's just a beautiful form."
Laita tracked down the snakes via zoos, breeders, private collectors and antivenom labs across the US and Central America – and had only one unfortunate encounter, when bitten by a black mamba; a poisonous nip is 100 per cent fatal – but Laita was lucky that his was either a "dry" bite, meaning it did not inject, or that the blood that gushed from the wound took the poison with it.
A timely reminder perhaps that it is not only their seductive silhouettes and flamboyant hues that are striking.
'Serpentine' by Mark Laita (Abrams, £30) is out on 5 March
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Mal Peet dead at 67: Tributes to children's author who was 'universally adored'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin