The stories of our planet’s lost and fading species are brought to life in a new photography exhibition on display at the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill. After Life, by photographer Sean Dooley, opens on Saturday 28 September and features poignant and surprising portraits of extinct and endangered animals preserved in museums and private collections, including specimens from the Horniman’s own collections.

Exploring the consequences of our actions, and inactions, in taking species for granted, this series of striking images includes portraits of a baby polar bear, the extinct passenger pigeon and the critically endangered ruffed lemur.

Sean Dooley says: ‘As a boy I was entranced by nature, and through taxidermy collections I could see animals from places that I’d likely never visit, and extinct creatures that no one would ever have the chance to see again. These objects are sometimes the last remnants of our planet’s lost and fading species, and they continue to unlock my boyhood curiosity. Though often beautiful, they’re an extremely poor substitute for having these animals live in the wild. I visited them to satisfy my own interest, and documented them so that other people could share in their wonder.’

The same exhibition space will also display photographs from Bioblitz, the Horniman’s review of its Natural History collections. The images capture and record the process of reviewing some 250,000 specimens over a 12-month period, giving an insight into this diverse collection and how better to understand and use it in future.

Paolo Viscardi, a Natural History curator at the Horniman, says: ‘We are delighted we have been able to work with Sean and make some of our specimens available to him for his After Life project. Displaying his photographs alongside those from our Bioblitz review gives visitors an opportunity to see Natural History portraits of fascinating specimens from both our own and other museums’ collections.’

After Life opens at the Horniman Museum and Gardens on Saturday 28 September 2013. Entry to the exhibition is free.