“The Death of Camilla”
Download the PDF to see all the images
My submission is a series of photographs based on the death of the virgin warrior Camilla in Book XI of The Aeneid of Virgil. All five photographs in the series appear with handwritten quotations from this passage vividly describing Camilla's death as her battle wound saps all her vigor. Specific quotations from the text inspired each photograph, and those lines are transcribed on cut-out letter paper within each frame.
The first photograph represents her acknowledgement that fate is inescapable, and she communicates this realization to Acca, her closest follower. The second shows her eyes "faltering"(XI.1085), and the color evaporating from her face. In the third, her neck relaxes and turns as death overcomes her head and her eyes close, never to open again. The fourth is critical to the series and adheres unequivocally to the text: this double exposure mirrors the lines describing how "she slowly freed herself from all her body"(XI.1099) It shows Camilla's hazy spirit, her shade, as it separates itself from her corporeal body. In the fifth and final frame, her body is not even present, substituted fully for her somber shade as it begins to travel to the underworld. The photographs move throughout the series from focused to slightly blurred by nature of the slow movements in the double exposures, to out of focus, and finally to mimicking ethereal shadows.
Camilla's death is truly striking as a momentary variation from an epic and a tradition almost entirely dominated by men. She fought as valiantly as Aeneas and Turnus themselves, and all the while without lusting for Lavinia or craving control of the city. The final line describing her death is even identical to the line describing the death of the heroic Turnus: "his life, resentful, fled to shades below"(XII.1271). This line is so vital to the Aeneid that it is the final line of the entire epic. Camilla's purity transcends her virginity--it materializes in her unadulterated determination to selflessly lead and protect her people. I strove to maintain this purity by making photographs on film with an analog camera, and thus not editing the photographs in any way, not even cropping them.
Colin Ross (CC'16) is pursuing a major in Art History and Visual Art and a concentration in Hispanic Studies. He lists Sandy Larson as his mentor in the arts. Colin appreciates his family's support and patience. He would also like to thank Caleb Dance and Moira Sims for their help. Colin rows for Columbia's Lightweight Rowing team.