For this project, I photograph unusual pets in their domestic environments. Over the past three years, I've photographed creatures such as snakes, hedgehogs, pot-bellied pigs, and ferrets in their homes. The pets are fascinating animals, to be sure, but their relationship with the owners has an element of ambiguity—it is not as clear and established as the companionship and comfort offered by dogs and cats. I explore the elements of these relationships, and the tensions that occur between the apparent wildness of the creature and its tame, domestic surroundings of soft textures and clutter.
This series was partially inspired by the pioneering Western photographers of the late 1800s, such as William Henry Jackson and Carleton Watkins. They explored the West in North America and brought back stunning imagery of splendor and bounty. The photographs in the series hearken back to this tradition in a tongue-in-cheek manner, with the fake fur substituting for majestic landscape. The materiality of the fake fur also inspired my images—I feel both a sense of attraction and repulsion to the substance. It is meant to be soft and comforting, though the rough acrylic fibers make for a poor imitation of the fur of a dead animal. The resulting series of photographs are clearly a simulation, a farce, with the fake fur as a reference to the lure of potential bounty as well as the resulting devastation.
Animals represent a multitude of different, conflicting meanings to us, whether we are consuming them, housing them as companions, or enclosing wild animals. Are we protectors, exploiters, or compatriots? Zoos serve as a clear manifestation of the state of our relationship to wild animals. They are a manufactured point of contact with the wild, and fulfill some need we have as humans to connect with nature, with wildness, and perhaps to have dominion and control over that wildness. The animals are both revered and constrained by us.
The photographs for this project were taken in 2010 and 2011 at various zoos in the United States and Europe. The habitat of the title is both that of the animal (made by humans) and that of the humans (enhanced by the animals).
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois #2 (Chimpanzee hand streaks)
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois #5
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois #4
Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois #6
San Francisco Zoo, California #4
San Francisco Zoo, California #1
Como Zoo, St. Paul, Minnesota #2
Como Zoo, St. Paul, Minnesota #3
Minnesota Zoo, Apple Valley #4
San Francisco Zoo, California #5
Berlin Zoo, Germany
Our experience of nature has been tamed and simplified, and also increasingly mediated by man-made objects that serve to create barriers between ourselves and our experiences of the world. In this series I am exploring our desire to connect with the natural world, to return to wildness, and imagining how that might manifest itself in our lives.
On the Tisza
These photographs were taken along the Tisza River in Hungary in 2010 as a way to explore the site of an environmental disaster that occurred ten years before. The boats are constructed out of materials found along the Tisza, and the text is taken from interviews with people along the Tisza.
In January of 2000, the Tisza River, Hungary’s second largest river after the Danube, was contaminated by a massive quantity of cyanide and heavy metals that overflowed from a mining operation just over the border in Romania. The Tisza itself was wiped virtually clean of life—the Environmental Minister of Hungary declared it dead. It was estimated that the river would take 10 to 20 years to bounce back, (if it ever completely bounced back at all—some species may have been rendered extinct by the incident).
Ten years have passed since the incident, and I’ve often thought about this death of the river and wondered what has happened to it since. What happens when a river dies? How were people living nearby affected by it? Can it recover, and how long does it take? This project was a way for me to explore these questions photographically.
For this series I explored my family and my roots in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The subjects and scenes are very familiar to me, but by photographing them I am able to gain a distance and better understand and appreciate the idiosyncrasies of my family life and my history.