Guy Preserves Rare ‘Monster’ Fish So They Won’t Be Lost Forever
A Dutch taxidermist has preserved rare, frightening ‘monster fish’ from the deepest depths of the ocean.
This isn’t one for the thalassophobes out there. Mysterious creatures – many of which, we’ll likely never discover – lurk in our open seas, from quirky oddities to fearsome predators.
In a bid to prevent some of the weirdest and most wonderful species from disappearing entirely, the work of full-time artist Jeroen ensures they’ll stay in their original shape for hundreds of years, ‘frozen alive’.
It started when the taxidermist was 10 years old, when he found a dead pike in a river near his home. ‘I was so fascinated by this big and beautiful fish that I took it out of the water and smuggled it into my house – I think I already realised my parents would not like such a smelly dead fish in the house,’ he said.
His dad was also a marine biologist and ‘crazy about fish… he showed me his books full of photos of all kinds of fish. As a young boy, I spent many hours just looking at all those amazing animals’.
After trying to hide the pike and put clay around it, his mum eventually noticed the ‘horrible smell’ from his bedroom. While his first taxidermy attempt ended in failure, he’d return to the craft at the age of 30, with the intention of ‘preserving a fish properly’.
‘I soon found out that in the field of taxidermy, fish are by far the most difficult animals to taxidermy,’ Jeroen explained, later having to ask for help from professional taxidermist in his hometown who happened to specialise in fish.
After two years working together, he had enough confidence to start taxidermy work on his own. Jeroen decided to focus on river monsters like the Goliath Tigerfish from the Congo river or the Vampire fish from the Amazon basin, as well as the ‘most monstrous fish of all: deep-sea fish’.
I like deep-sea fish the most, but they are very difficult to get. I have contacts with fishermen all over the world and they keep all the strange and unusual deep-sea fish they catch.
They used to throw them overboard because they had no use for them, so they are happy I pay them a good price for these monstrous creatures. I am one of the few persons in the world who taxidermies deep-sea fish.
Jeroen says a passion for fish is ‘in his blood’. For him, deep-sea fish are ‘the ultimate monster fish… they live in eternal darkness in the depths of the sea and most of them have never been seen alive by humans’.
After launching an Instagram account (@monster_fish_taxidermy) eight months ago, he’s already racked up more than 33,000 followers. ‘I guess people like to see real monsters,’ he said.
A lot of people have no idea what dwells deep below in our oceans, and with my work I can give them a glimpse of these amazing animals. Most people really love my monster fish. The scarier, the better! Especially the ones with big, nasty teeth. But I also get many reactions like, ‘I am never going swimming in the ocean again!’
The taxidermy process is incredibly precise, taking anywhere from a few days to several weeks to complete.
He explained, ‘First, you need to remove all the flesh and leave only the skin, head, and fins. These are preserved by different kinds of chemicals. I have invented my own secret recipe so the fish do not lose their original skin colour, which usually happens in fish taxidermy.’
Then I fill up the body with synthetic materials that have to fit exactly so the fish gets back its natural shape. I also use epoxy and clay to bring back parts that have shrunk after drying.
Finally, I restore and paint damaged parts and cover the fish with clear lacquer. On regular fish, this process is comparably easy, but deep-sea fish are a whole different story. Their skin is like no other fish – most of them have no scales – and they are extremely fragile.
Many of Jeroen’s works are on temporary display in several museums and are not currently for sale, however, the artist may begin selling them to private collectors in the future. He’s also currently working on a photo exhibition of his work for a museum in Russia.
If you want to see more of Jeroen’s monster fish, check out his Instagram here.
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CreditsMonster Fish Taxidermy
Monster Fish Taxidermy