Capturing taxidermied leopard heads encrusted with diamonds at the Tucson Gem Show with Rosie Clements

Speaking to the Arizona-native photographer and musician, we chart how the Tuscon Gem Show is truly a one of its kind.

21 March 2022

The work of Rosie Clements is full of beautiful quotidian captures, to say the least. Her lens unearths an artistic candour of even the most ordinary flashes of life, things we may otherwise ignore if not seen at a certain angle, in a certain light, or at a certain time. “At first, I felt like I needed to do planned shoots with models to be a ‘real’ photographer,” Rosie explains to It’s Nice That. “But during the pandemic, I fell back into the rhythm of going on daily wanderings to search for images.” That method became a “tool for mindfulness that came about in a very natural way” for Rosie, who attributes the growing realisation in-part to Jenny Odell’s book How to do Nothing Specifically – wherein Jenny says: “the granularity of attention we achieve outward also extends inward, so that as the perceptual details of our environment unfold… so too do our own intricacies and contradictions.” Taking this mantra with her into her work, Rosie now often captures the lives and happenings of her immediate surroundings in quick fashion.

Her latest work continues this trend, venturing deep into the beating heart of Tucson, Arizona, the photographer’s home of the last five years. It’s the Tucson Gem Show, “the largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world,” according to the convention’s official website. “I’ve lived in Tucson for about five years now, and the Gem Show is this huge event that has happened every year since the 50s,” Rosie tells us. “It’s truly massive and takes weeks to set up and break down, and it has a huge impact on the local economy.”

GalleryRosie Clements: The Gem Show (Copyright © Rosie Clements, 2022)

The “unique” place of Tucson takes on a whole new life in Rosie’s work, highlighting the esoteric and idiosyncratic wonders of the desert city which culminate under this one show. “Each year during the Gem Show the town seems to balloon in size with the influx of gem hunters, making the atmosphere feel even stranger,” she adds. “Thousands of exhibitors and visitors come from all over the world every year — from Morocco to Mexico — to view, sell, and purchase gems, precious metals, jewellery, weird oddities, and fossils. It’s fascinating.”

From a “taxidermied leopard head encrusted with diamonds” to a “prehistoric giant sloth rib,” Rosie’s careful eye captures the dizzying array of what’s for sale at this show. Yet, it’s not all glitz and glamour at the affair. “I definitely think there’s plenty of critique to be made about the event,” Rosie adds. “What are the moral implications of putting a price tag on a dinosaur skull? What are the environmental and cultural impacts of extracting these minerals and then transporting them halfway across the world?” Still, whilst Rosie holds those critiques close to her chest, her images don’t actually seek to answer any of them. “It’s up to the viewer to make their own decision,” she explains. “This series is an observation of the event itself, and of humanity’s obsession with gems, diamonds, and crystals.”

GalleryRosie Clements: The Gem Show (Copyright © Rosie Clements, 2022)

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Rosie Clements: The Gem Show (Copyright © Rosie Clements, 2022)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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