2015 - 2019
Maitland, Florida, United States; DeLand, Florida, United States; Naples, Florida, United States; Daytona Beach, Florida, United States; Tampa, Florida, United States
“Of One and The Other” explores the complexity found in the diverse relationships between animals and humans from points along a spectrum spanning the fine line between adoration, lifesaving, and exploitation. I was compelled to look at the myriad permutations in the treatment of animals that I observed across different environments wherein humans and animals interact today. I spent time among wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers, owners of exotic big cats, children in the 4-H Program that raise farm animals for market, rescue sanctuaries that care for abused and neglected wild and domestic animals, hunters, taxidermists, traveling animal exhibits, and “backyard” sanctuaries that sell “pet and play” encounters with juvenile big cats. Made over a period of five years, the project is broad in scope spanning throughout the USA and abroad, although I have chosen to focus on a select set of images made in Florida. The photographs look at how we desire to coexist harmoniously with animals, yet we seek control, consumption, and domination. These disparities have yet to be reconciled, however there is a growing sensibility and consciousness in Western culture towards animals as sentient, but not equal beings. My photographs live within this larger context and advocate for our fellow inhabitants of this planet who are unable to speak for themselves.
I immersed myself in the commonalities and conflicts of interest between neighboring groups to call attention to the slippery divide; the borderlands we collectively share with our animal counterparts and make pictures about whether or not these figurative boundaries are honored or crossed. The images are a result of my own exploration of the constructs and variabilities found in the human and animal entanglement. My approach was to set my beliefs aside when making the pictures to remain open to the different enactments of adoration and attitudes towards animals. I found that the intrinsic rights of animals manifested differently for the individuals I encountered and that they all loved animals in their own way. The nature of our relationships with animals is neither black nor white or straightforward. Collectively, my images tell a story that needs to be communicated in the most neutral way possible and be presented from many angles of this diverse condition.
Taken as a whole, this series is a critique of the inherently paradoxical framework I experienced within a multitude of contexts where humans and animals intersect from preservation to exploitation and from compassion and harm. Conflicting attitudes and displaced intentions surrounding adoration, escape, capture, release and conservation are woven into the fabric of the photographs. The humans and the animals I depict co-exist and connect across these margins but a wide divergence between the two groups prevails, typically producing tension and contradiction. To coexist harmoniously with our fellow species despite the animals’ displacement from their natural habitat is incongruous and unrealistic. There lies a fundamental misunderstanding of the needs of wildlife and that they should be afforded the same rights, freedom’s and protections as humans.
The series is an acknowledgment of the contradictions, the unresolved and intricate borderlands shared by humans and non-humans. Irrespective of our own biases, within every interaction and encounter, there deserves to be a deeper understanding of our obligations and our impact on the lives of animals; who by definition share our ability to perceive and respond to complex sensations and emotions: sight, touch, smell, but also joy, fear, and suffering. Engaging deeply with the world and with other sentient beings brings purpose and meaning to our lives.