My aims for this project were as follows:
1. Development of animal portraiture photography
2. Effectively communicate emotions from the animals photographed to convey strong responses from the audience
3. Understand why this type of photography (along with the accompanying close up images) gets such a strong reaction from the viewer
Professionally produce a selection of final prints which communicate an emotive feeling and generate a strong reaction from the viewers which beautifully demonstrates our similarities and helps induce a connection with nature. This will be done through extensive research from professional photographers through the wide use of books, internet and articles of several different styles.
Reviewing these aims individually, I do feel I met most of them. Throughout the project I definitely feel as though my animal portrait photography has developed a long way. From the first shoot where I achieved one image, the second shoot I attained no images, and every shoot afterwards I achieved two to three images each time.
With my project being heavily focused on viewers engaging with animals and bringing them to have an emotive response to my own photographs, I will be spending extensive time finding out if we (as human beings) truly have the ability to sympathise with and respect animals. If we can truly make a connection and appreciate them, not as beneath us, but as equals, two living things which have been granted no more power above the other on this earth we share. If it is possible to see past our ignorance of our ‘superior’ intelligence and see what each of the animals have that make them unique powerful and intelligent in their world.
As human beings, we are powerful and empathetic, loving and significant in this world we are a part of. But that is exactly it, we are a part of the earth, we do not own it, rule it and barely have the right to think we do.
The idea of anthropocentrism is ‘the belief that human beings are the central or most significant species on the planet. (In the sense that they are considered to have a moral status or value higher than that of all other organisms)’. (Wikipedia, 2016). It is understandable why people would think this, on the basis that humans have built on the earth and created our own civilised way of living. The domination over animals as pets, workers and attractions. What we fail to see however, is that within their own societies, animals can be just as civilised, if not more, just as intelligent if not like us but in different ways which aid them, and just as loving and caring as ourselves.
If you take the ape world for example, one will be able to realise that they have developed on a different level. They have made tools which help them hunt and eat amongst other things. We may feel more civilised because we would use a knife and fork, but how many termites would you be able to eat with a fork compared with a dipped stick? Like our developments in society, the apes have matched us but in a way that suits them. Dr Jane Goodall has watched apes for the majority of her life and compares there many likenesses to us humans. Her research has led her to find they have ‘life long friendships between family members; the acts of altruism; the communication gestures such as kissing, embracing, holding hands; the tool using and tool making skills.’ (Jane Goodall, 1999). Maybe we see them as beneath us because the only real encounters most get are at a zoo, when they can be unhappy and as a result emit the idea that they are stupid?
This is what I want to be tackling within my study and asking people to reconsider. One must also consider acts of human beings. We can not say we are the most civilised species in the world, especially when we kill our own kind, and not always as defence or protection of others, but because they have gotten in our ways. We kill other species, not just for food, but for sport, pets and money. Money which seems to drive our species’ to the extremes. Money which ruins us, makes us and ultimately keeps our world going around. It is true that animals may live simple lives in terms of, eating, sleeping, hunting and so on, but they are too effective. Species come and go, that’s how our world works, humans have been round for thousands of years, so this automatically means we are the greater species? Or does it just prove we have the ability to get rid of other species that are beneath us? Extinction is a natural occurrence, killing to extinction is not. It is common knowledge that poachers kill animals as prizes or for money, it is dismissed knowledge, or knowledge that is not thought of that no other species in the world kills for anything other than food, territory or protection of others or themselves. So, yes, we maybe the species strongest and on top because we can do this, but ultimately, does this not make us the uncivilised ones for doing it?
I have briefly mentioned our impact of killing animals, but how often do we see the reverse? In this I mean animals killing humans. It is fact that animals do kill humans, but a closer look at the statistics shows that most of the kills are in fact reasons such as mistaken identity (thinking a human is prey because they seem to mimic a certain prey), for example, a shark mistaking a surfer for a turtle.
Or a man been killed by a mountain gorilla because he tried to catch one of her/his offspring. Although I am not saying it is an act for an act, or a kill for a kill, but when justified, is it not seen more cruel for humans to kill mountain gorillas during their wars over their habitat, consequently a side kill from their main targets of other humans?
It is true that there have been rouge, unjustifiable attacks from animals to humans, but delve deeper into the matter and it will more than likely be found that there was a reason such as the time of year meant is was the breeding season of a certain species and so forth.
With all this in mind I am hoping to convince the viewers of my photographs that animals share our emotions. They feel pain, love, loneliness, sadness, happiness, excitement, bereavement and some times, even grieve for their dead. Capturing this in a photograph is important. Could portrayals like my photographs change the opinion of even a few who believe in anthropocentrism? Or even change the mind of a poacher who kills orangutan mothers to take their now orphaned babies and sell them on the black market as pets with no respect, emotion or dignity?
Ultimately, the only way I am able to do this is by photographing the animals in a zoo, this will allow people to look into their eyes and feel as though they are communicating directly to them, and this is why different people will see a different emotion from the same photograph. Images speak differently to everyone who sees them, my images will do the same, but hopefully the result of wanting to learn more about the species in the image will be shared.