Farmed Animal Photography
“To identify with others is to see something of yourself in them and to see something of them in yourself--even if the only thing you identify with is the desire to be free from suffering.”
― Melanie Joy, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows
I have been photographing farm animals living in sanctuary since the turn of the millenium, and it has been one of the blessings of my life. Because I have worked with Farm Sanctuary and Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, two of the most prominent sanctuaries in the US, I have been able to meet and network with an incredibly diverse and talented group of people involved with the vegan and animal rights movements. This has influenced the trajectory of my life in countless ways. Yet it is the animals themselves who have opened my heart.
For me photographing the animals is a kind of meditation. Through my interactions with them I have come to see that they are each individuals. I think the cultural memes that define our understanding of farm animals tend to enable a false belief that each species represent one personality, always dimwitted and dependent upon us for their survival. Over the millennia that we have been domesticating animals we have created mythologies in order to ease our consciences about what we do to them. We reinforce these stereotypes by indoctrinating our children into our way of thinking through parenting, schooling, advertising and our use of language itself (counting our chickens before they hatch, killing two birds with one stone, etc;).
By the time we grow from the indoctrinated child to the supposedly autonomous adult the relationship between us and the animals we consume is distorted and buried in our subconscious minds. It is my belief that this hidden aspect of our psyches bubbles up to haunt us in the ways we do violence to each other as individuals and sovereign nation states. We can not on the one hand incorporate violence and subjugation into our diets and on the other hand hope for peace on Earth.
It is with these core beliefs directing me that I set out to show the beauty and individuality of farm animals to people who may never meet the living creatures. There is really no photograph that I can take that will replace that experience, but I feel that my best photographs transmit the beauty, spirit and dignity of the beings to the viewer. The hope of art is to create a transcendent experience. My farm animal photography exists to push the envelope of compassion.