Our household cat of many years died in 2006 when she was quite old, and my subsequent feelings of loss led me to ask myself these questions: How is it possible that I, a human being, can share the quality called “life” with another animal that is so different from me? How is it that I both identified with her and experienced a powerful feeling of her otherness? Contemplating these perhaps unanswerable questions led me to observe and photograph a variety of animals- other than humans.
In 2010, Schilt Publishing of Amsterdam published my book Animal, which contains the first fifty images from the resulting project. However, there are about two million known species of animals on earth, so, not yet feeling a sense of completion, I continue the exploration. Roughly half the exhibition at UPI is comprised of a selection of images from the book. The other half contains images made since the book’s publication.
I have also read widely – from Darwin to Derrida – of other people’s thoughts on the human relationship to other animals. And while I can’t say my images have always been “informed” by these writings, I’ve chosen to exhibit a few quotes from texts that I’ve found to be thought provoking and, I believe, complementary to the images. In the following quote, the American philosopher Cora Diamond sums up the kind of perplexity that led me to begin this project in the first place:
In the case of our relationship with animals [there is] a sense of astonishment and incomprehension that there should be beings so like us, so unlike us, so astonishingly capable of being companions of ours and so unfathomably distant.
How powerfully strange it is that they and we should share as much as we do, and also not share; that they should be capable of incomparable beauty and delicacy and terrible ferocity; that some among them should be so mindbogglingly weird or repulsive in their forms or in their lives.