Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Susan Valiquette Photographs Europe's Bones (Literally)


Boise-based photographer Susan Valiquette had a hard time describing her visit to Sedlec Ossuary, the so-called Bone Church in the Czech Republic that has perhaps the world's most disturbing basement. It's decorated with the bones of 40,000 Black Plague victims, pulled from the walls and reshaped into art.

"You go down there and it's just all bones—there are caves that go back for yards that are just all skulls, and there are all of these [bone] chandeliers...It's just fascinating, but creepy," Valiquette said. "It's really bizarre, because you're thinking 'Wow, this is really creative,' and then you're thinking, 'Wow, these are all dead people.'"

Valiquette travels regularly in the United States and has even made a handful of trips to Central America, but her three-week excursion through Eastern Europe—with stops in the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Poland, Croatia and Hungary—was a journey apart. The region's history and people shaped her photographs, which will be on display at Push and Pour in Garden City from Friday-Thursday, Sept. 7-Oct. 4, in an exhibit titled Eastern Europe: A Journey.

This shot shows the Dvorak Cafe in Prague, Czech Republic. - SUSAN VALIQUETTE
  • Susan Valiquette
  • This shot shows the Dvorak Cafe in Prague, Czech Republic.

Valiquette is known for the unfiltered feel of her snapshots, which often show marginalized or overlooked people, those she called "a little off the center of humanity." But for Eastern Europe she steered clear of portraits, largely because the language barrier prevented her from explaining her project to her subjects. Instead, she turned to architecture, producing a series as haunting as the spots she visited, which included two concentration camps, as well as the Bone Church. Each shot was filtered through a modern lense.

"I shot the whole show with my Apple iPhone 7," Valiquette said. "So that was really different. I usually shoot with a film camera, and I didn't want to have to deal with that, getting film through security and x-rays and all that. So I decided to shoot with the iPhone."

Thanks to an app called ProCamera, Valiquette was able to "shoot in raw," capturing images as large as 35 megapixels. That file size enabled her to produce sprawling prints for Eastern Europe, which are sure to make a powerful statement on Push and Pour's white walls. Europhiles can get an early eyeful starting at a 6-10 p.m. opening reception on Sept. 7.