This project began because of my love of farm animals and the knowledge that they are the most abused, overlooked animals on the planet. While visiting the sanctuaries, I confirmed what I knew in my heart to be true. These animals are unique; some quirky or funny, others sensitive,shy, playful, intelligent, mischievous, or inquisitive. All seemed to have complex emotional lives. I am making portraits of each animal to show their individual personality and to give them the respect they deserve. I invite you to view the photographs with compassionate eyes and hope that you begin to see farm animals in a new light.
In my work I investigate the relationship between humans and other animals and how non-human animals are represented in a myriad ways in our culture. The meanings that are imposed on animals are so infinite that some of us forget that every animal is an individual. My “Sanctuary” project focuses on the inner lives of farmed animals and their existence as unique beings. I visited and photographed the animal residents at ten US farm animal sanctuaries, which are all dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and lifelong care of abused and neglected farmed animals. A formal portrait was made of each animal to highlight his or her personality and convey dignity. The resulting photographs are black and white to emphasis a sense of tradition and to keep the focus on each animal’s expression. I did not photograph animals that were still suffering to avoid causing any further distress. I approached my project from an angle that encourages people to linger over the photographs and contemplate the personality of the animal in front of them.
The portraits of each animal are titled with their individual names and where they reside. The fact that they live at a sanctuary is significant as they are in essence the “lottery winners” that live in a safe environment while billions of their species are tortured and killed. This motivated me to photograph each animal in his or her home. I spent time with the animals I photographed observing and waiting until they approached me. Like many intriguing portraits the images show the relationship between the photographer and the sitter. I put myself in whatever position necessary in order to engage and make eye contact with each animal I photographed. I waited for something that moved beyond superficial depiction, which in some cases was a subtle expression, a gaze, a change in body language, a mood, or an emotional exchange between the animal and myself. When exhibiting this project, I typically print the photographs 40 by 40 inches to enable the viewer to see all of the small details and look into the animal’s eyes. Handwritten stories written by sanctuary founders and workers about each animal are shown alongside the photographs. Charta Art Books published this project as a book titled, “Sanctuary: Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals” in Fall 2012.
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