Friday, May 20, 2011
Amy Stein: Not So Domesticated Animals
Posted by Jay at 5:12 PM
What happens when humans encounter animals in the wild? Or better yet, what happens when wild animals encounter humans in the city? And do these rare and not-so-rare occurrences hold any lasting value beyond the moment? The answers to these questions might be found in photographer Amy Stein's Domesticated series.
On first glance, these images immediately capture your attention; wild animals in urban settings and humans awkwardly interacting with them make for striking subjects. These creatures seem both out of place in the pictures yet somehow look very familiar and make sense in these urban settings.
On closer inspection, you begin to wonder how these photographs were made. An image of a little girl by a swimming pool from a bear's point of view, or a pair of bobcats relaxing by a residential construction project seems too realistic to be true, ironically.
These are of course reconstructions of actual interactions between people and animals. Ms. Stein based her Domesticated project on written and oral stories of these encounters, and set them in a rural town near a state forest.
The result is a beautiful and surreal look into the strange and strained relationship between humans and wild animals. Many of Ms. Stein's cleverly planned shots show the moment when this relationship is either at its highlight or is put to the test.
Ms. Stein's intent for this series was to show how evolution works even to this day and how both humans and animals are affected by each others actions. Unlike the rate of evolution thousands of years ago, the current tempo of change brought about by urban development and technology means that wild animals have to adapt to newer and stranger settings, which leads to the curious encounters that you see in these images.
Take away the animals in the pictures, and everything seems to be normal. In this series however, the barriers between the wild and civilization seem to grow vague, as if the animals were meant to be there all along. In this series, it seems like the humans are the ones out of touch with their city dwellings.
Although these images have a deeper meaning than what they appear to be, some comparison can be drawn from the previous post on Joel Sartore's Rare project; these encounters between man and beast aren't always beneficial to both parties. In trifling circumstances, they can lead to lighthearted anecdotes as depicted in these pictures.
The graver undertone in these pictures still exists however, and it points to the unbalance between urban development and these creature's natural habitats.
On that last note, one can't help but think that the unbalance between nature and so-called civilization is somewhat paradoxical. On one hand, these interactions show the negative effect of rapid change, but on the other, these rare encounters with wild animals for some people wouldn't be possible if not for these borderlands between human dwellings and wild habitats.
The whole Domesticated series as well as other projects can be found on Amy Stein's website. She also has a blog which is well worth following.