helmut azam khan

the fall of man

orthographic photography by Helmut Azam Khan
June 2 - 13, 2004
Gallery 888

Opening Reception: June 3, 6-9pm
888 Queen Street East
Toronto, Canada

the fall of man explores the Judeo-Christian idea that the root of all evil is the eating of animals by humans.

Chapter 1 of Genesis covers the creation story. In it, humans are given the first two Commandments: (1) Be fruitful and multiply [1:28], and (2) Be vegetarian [1:29]. In Chapter 2, we discover that there are two special trees that do not grow "out of the ground": the Tree of Life and the Tree of Death (called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because it was not until the forbidden food was eaten that death was introduced) [2:9]. Also, these trees are in the "midst of the garden" meaning that they are everywhere.

The entire Garden of Eden story appears on the very first two pages of the Bible.

click for larger image

In Chapter 3, Adam and Eve eat food from the forbidden tree, breaking the second Commandment given in Chapter 1. They are ashamed and try to hide behind fig leaves [3:7]. Before this point, there was no death, but killing and eating an animal has introduced death to the Garden. And because of this, Adam and Eve were told that they would no longer live forever but would die as well and go "from dust, to dust" [3:19]. And even though they made aprons of fig leaves for clothing, God gave them coats of skins [3:21] to remind them of their evil deed. And since there was no death in the Garden of Paradise before, the skins could only have come from the animal that was killed by Adam and Eve. And so, they were driven out of the Garden [3:24] and a flaming sword was put around the Garden of Paradise to "keep the way of the Tree of Life" (the vegetarian way of Paradise).

Each image in this series plays a role in the story of the Garden of Eden, and so, has its own story.


   
 
paradise — the fall of man
 
 
This is one of the few lush green leaves in this collection, and so, represents Paradise. Only one corner of the leaf is tarnished by the decay of death, caused by Adam and Eve in the Garden.
 
 
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be fruitful & multiply — the fall of man
 
 
In Genesis 1:28, God gives the first of two Commandments to the humans: “Be fruitful and multiply.” The second Commandment is given on the next line 1:29 “Be vegetarian.” As pictured above, the stem of the leaf branches out to the main lines of the leaf which also branch out forming a symbolic family tree, and so, represents the title of this piece.
 
 
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the way of the tree of life — the fall of man
 
  “the way of the tree of life” refers to the vegetarian way of life in the garden of Paradise. In the last line of Genesis chapter 3 [3:24], God expels Adam and Eve from the garden for eating an animal (the forbidden food), and to protect that which is good, “He placed... a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” The image for this piece represents the vitality of life surging into the environment where there is no death and the animals are safe from man.  
 
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man became a living soul — the fall of man
 
  In Genesis 2:7, God “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Again using the back of a leaf to represent infusion of life, this maple leaf close-up image shows how all the individual cells are connected to the source of life.  
 
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man became a living soul — the fall of man
 
   
 
cropping variations — click for larger images
 

   
 
the breath of life — the fall of man
 
 
When God created man, he was simply a container for the soul. Then He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” [Genesis 2:7] This image represents the infusion of life into a shape.
 
 
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in the midst — the fall of man
 
 
Eden is classically depicted with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the Garden, growing out of the ground. Also, the Tree of Life is typically not shown. However, this is not correct. Using this macro-image as a representation of modern satelitte imagery, “in the midst” portrays the concept that the two special trees in the Garden of Eden, (which do not grow “out of the ground,” [2:9]) that is, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Death (or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), exist everywhere in the garden.
 
 
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fruit of a tree yeilding seed — the fall of man
 
 
In Genesis 1:29, God gives us the second Commandment to be vegetarian: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” This is the Commandment broken by Adam and Eve when they ate the animal –the forbidden food.
 
 
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the forbidden food: animal flesh — the fall of man
 
 
This image represents the life and vitality of the animals of the Garden of Eden when life was eternal, before an animal was killed and eaten by Adam and Eve.
 
 
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the serpent — the fall of man
 
 
This detail image of the larger print “the fall of man” represents the serpent, tempting Eve. Before this, Adam and Eve were innocent and seemed content to follow the two Commandments. However, the serpent tried to confuse Eve asking her what they could eat. And Eve replied “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.” But the serpent wanted to trick Eve into eating an animal –the “fruit” of the tree of knowledge that was everywhere in the garden. And the serpent said “But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die? Ye shall not surely die.”
 
 
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temptation — the fall of man
 
 
This image is a close-up of “The Forbidden Food: Animal Flesh,” and so, represents Adam and Eve approaching their victim. The arms of the oak leaf represent the limbs of the animal.
 
 
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the first bite — the fall of man
 
 
This image represents the eating of the food from the forbidden tree. In Genesis 3:6, Eve did not, at first, recognize the animal –the forbidden fruit– as being food at all. However, she then “saw that the tree was good for food.” Eve also felt that it was “to be desired to make one wise... and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” And this act introduced death into Paradise.
 
 
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where art thou? — the fall of man
 
 
This image is paired with “hiding from God in the garden” and shows the turning of the colours of Eden from lush greens and reds to bruised earth tones. The title is from Genesis 3:9 when Adam and Eve are ashamed of themselves and fear punishment for introducing death into the garden by eating the forbidden food.
 
 
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hiding from God — the fall of man
 
 
This image is paired with the piece entitled “where art thou?” as they show different parts of the same leaf. This is the question God asked Adam and Eve when they were hiding because their conscience told them that they had done something contrary to the moral feeling: killing.
 
 
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from dust — the fall of man
 
 
By eating the animal, called the "food from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil", Adam and Eve introduced death into the garden. God then says “in sorrow, thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life.” [3:17] Also, Adam and Eve would no longer be immortal and would suffer the same fate as their victim. God says “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
 
 
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to dust — the fall of man
 
 
This detail image of “from dust” represents the return of Adam and Eve to the ground from the death that they brought on by eating the animal. [3:19]
 
 
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expelled from the garden — the fall of man
 
 
The back of a lush green leaf represents the closure of Paradise to Adam and Eve as God drove them out of Eden. Chapter 3 of Genesis ends with “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
 
 
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the flaming sword — the fall of man
 
 
After God expelled Adam and Eve for eating an animal, He placed angels at the entrance to Paradise to keep the vegetarian way of life safe from evil. Genesis 3:24 tells that God “placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the Tree of Life.”
 
 
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humility — the fall of man
 
 
Before Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent to want the “knowledge of good and evil,” they were happy to co-exist with nature in humility. This feeling changed to shame, guilt, and fear after they ate the animal flesh.

This piece was inspired by a beautiful photograph of an Italian statue by Canadian photographer Pamela Williams, entitled Reflection from her Last Kiss collection.
 
 
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coats of skins — the fall of man
 
 
This detail image of the larger print “the fall of man” represents the another aspect of the introduction of death into Paradise. After Adam and Eve ate the animal flesh, they felt shame. Genesis 3:7 says ”And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” I take this to mean that they realized that they themselves were animals as well, but without fur to “clothe” them. But when God expelled them from Eden, He gave them “coats of skins, and clothed them,” [3:21] to remind them of their horrible deed. And, of course, there would be no dead animals to make coats of skins from unless the forbidden fruit had been an animal (since there was no death before that act).
 
 
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the tree of death — the fall of man
 
 
In the Garden of Eden, there were two special trees that did not grow “out of the ground”; the Tree of Life and its opposite, the Tree of Death. These trees where “in the midst” of the garden, meaning they were everywhere. However, because there was no concept of death in the garden, the Tree of Death was called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The so-called “fruit” of the Tree of Death, that was forbidden to eat, were animals, who were, of course, everywhere in the garden.
 
 
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Eve — the fall of man
 
 
This image represents Eve, the wife of Adam who was tricked by the serpent to eat the so-called forbidden food –animal flesh. The strong red is used for all its classic semantics: blood, passion, strength, the feminine, desire, temptation, war, danger, power and fire.
 
 
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Adam — the fall of man
 
 
The back of the Eve leaf represents Adam. After Adam and Eve eat from the dead animal, God asks Adam what he has done. Adam says “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” In effect, Adam first blames God for giving him the woman and then blames Eve that she gave him the meat, instead of taking responsibility for his own actions. [Genesis 3:12]
The back of the leaf is used to show shame, disgrace, and cowardice where the front of the leaf, representing Eve, is a brilliant red showing strength, danger, blood, and fire.
 
 
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fear — the fall of man
 
 
When Adam and Eve had eaten the animal –the forbidden food, they knew what they had done was horrible and they tried to hide and feared God. As fear is the opposite of faith, the back of the leaf representing faith is used for this image.
 
 
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faith — the fall of man
 
 
Faith is easy for those who have witnessed miraculous events. This is why, in the story of Doubting Thomas, Jesus tells him “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” [John 20:29]

This leaf represents the beauty and vitality of faith. Today, faith is typically considered to be a weakness, often said in the spirit of the expression “blind faith.” However, faith born from the ability to see good from evil (without divine intervention) pushes one to action to –hopefully– walk the path of good and, specifically in the context of this collection, to “keep the way of the Tree of Life,” that is, to be vegetarian.
 
 
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the fall of man — the fall of man
 
 
This image is used as the source for the detail prints “the serpent”, and “coats of skins.” It contains a rich variety of colour, shape, and texture. Its leathery appearance lends itself to the “coats of skins” piece and the bat-like figure centered about the gold highlight is quite suitable for “the serpent” piece. As a whole, this image represents the elements that contributed to “the fall of man”: temptation, death, decay of moral feelings, fear, and the weakness of man to want to kill and eat all animals.
 
 
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the winter of man — the fall of man
 
 

“the fall of man” begins the struggle of man, having chosen to eat from the Tree of Death instead of from The Tree of Life. At the end of this struggle, only man’s soul will remain, and his choices in life will determine whether he will be blessed with the Second Life, or cursed that he has earned the Second Death (as depicted in the detail image).

At the very end of the Bible in Revelation 2:7 it is said “To him that overcometh the temptation (to eat from the tree of death) will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”

 
 
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the second death — the fall of man
 
 
The Second Death is described in Revelation 20:12-14.

20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

20:13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire (erased from existence). This is the second death.
 
 
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All Text and Imagery Copyright © 2005, Helmut Azam Khan. All Rights Reserved.
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