Portraits of Animals in Captivity
“Dominion” — the title for my series of images — refers to the Book of Genesis and its sacred “mandate” instructing mankind on the balance of power in nature. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish in the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
Like many people, I grew up with a fascination for animals. Storybooks, cartoons, puppet shows; our culture fosters the whimsical fantasy that animals are our friends. The truth is much darker. Animals are commodities that we use for food, clothing, labor, and entertainment. The Old Testament gave man a pretext for using animals to suit his needs. Modern civilization developed in ways to shield us from the cruelty and neglect with which we treat our fellow creatures. Today, attitudes are changing, due in large part to the long campaign of animal welfare groups that have worked to expose and question our exploitation of animals.
In each of my images, an animal has been removed from its natural environment and placed in a human space where it does not belong. The longing to be elsewhere is clear from the animal’s expression and confinement. Faded murals allude to a history of domestication and the way we can often fool ourselves into thinking of animals as extensions of our own needs and emotions. These animals are not at home here. Nonetheless, there is a disturbing beauty in their isolation.