Mementi Mori is a body of work that seeks to inform how people think about important current events and provoke conversations about the conventions of photography, photographic images and objects, and the ways in which photographs function as memory tools.
Photographer Paul Baker Prindle began this series nearly ten years ago and the images are set upon the everyday landscape of the United States. The banal documentary look of these representations belies the horrific events that have taken place at sites he visited from California to New York. These photographs are of locations where gay men, lesbians, and transgender individuals have been murdered.
He visited the sites well after the crimes had occurred and, from the images he captured, produced large-scale photographic prints.  According to Baker Prindle, “Viewers won’t find the bloody remains of violence or clues to who was murdered or why within these photographs. Human lives were forever ended in ignominious, plain places and I’ve purposely recorded these locales after years of growth and development have obscured any traces that once scarred the land. Even the infamous site of Matthew Shepard’s death at the foot of idyllic, snow-capped peaks is encircled by suburban sprawl. Each site I visited was an unsettling disappointment, bearing few if any clues to the value of the life that ended there. The photograph produced is a weak, but concrete, tie back to the criminal events that occurred at each site.”
In contrast to the banal images made, he creates gruesome titles for these photographs from content he uncovered in police reports, letters and statements from grieving parents, and news coverage.
Baker Prindle explains, “The mix of banal imagery and narratives of baroque violence forcefully shake the viewer out of calloused viewing and into rage, angst, and/or speechlessness. Successful images in this series lead the viewer to think about their place as a content maker, whose personal reading of the images is more important than the photograph. My hope is to help viewers recognize how central fantasy and imagination are to the photographic image. From fashion shoots to war images from Iraq, photographic images rely on the viewer to complete their meaning by drawing on conscious and unconscious biases, preferences, and worldviews.”
His images reference objects that engage memory and feelings of loss, including Jane Hammond’s “Fallen” and videos from the Fortunoff Archives of Holocaust Survivor testimonies. He is inspired by the written work of Hannah Arendt who comments on the banality of evil, as well as disturbing images of violence including “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa” and photographs made at the My Lai massacre.
Paul Baker Prindle (b. La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA) has exhibited in Austin, Baton Rouge, New York City, San Francisco, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Knoxville, Los Angeles, and Madison, Wisconsin. His work has been published by Out and,, Our Lives, and Männer, and has received mention in ArtForum Diary, Wisconsin Gazette, and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Objects from his series, Mementi Mori are held by the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Wisconsin Museum of Art. In 2018, Baker Prindle received an Artist Fellowship in Visual Arts from the Nevada Arts Council. He lives in Reno, Nevada.