It's been awhile since the Reel Foto blog featured any animals, so this week will be devoted to just that. While the last posts on the subject were focused on strange creatures underwater and close encounters of the wild kind, it's time to come back to those animals that are closer to man's heart. Man's best friend has already graced the Reel Foto blog twice, but nothing has been said of man's other best friends. Photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand seeks to amend that by presenting fine and furry farm animals in all their glory.
You may have already heard of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, although his name may have been attached to another equally commendable project: in 2009, he released the documentary film Home which he directed. The film shows the beauty and devastation of planet earth from the air, and is freely available for viewing from the Home website.
Aside from his gorgeous aerial photographs (which have been published in the book Earth from Above), Arthus-Bertrand has dedicated most of his time to portraiture. He already has an impressive portfolio of studio shots of different professionals and peoples from his native France, but it is his magnificent portraits of animals that sets him apart from other photographers.
While the whole world cannot get enough of exotic creatures in the wild, people seem to overlook those animals that have helped humans become more civilized: cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and many other farm animals have been comparatively neglected in the photography world. Arthus-Bertrand has changed that by not only documenting these creatures and their different breeds, but doing so in an elegant and formal manner.
In order to get these farm animals to a studio setting, Arthus-Bertrand and his team traveled to different farms and set up their make-shift studio which consists of a 10m x 10m or 6m x 3m canvas along with a couple of strobe lights on either side. Of course, all of this technical information won't do much good if the animals and their human handlers didn't light up the stage as they did in these photographs.
Originally, the farm animals were supposed to be photographed by themselves when Arthus-Bertrand visited an agricultural show in the early 1990s. When setting up the shot however, the animals would quite predictably become agitated and stressed out from being separated from their human owners and being put in front of foreign looking cameras and lighting equipment. Back with their human counterparts however, the animals would light up, giving the photographer the shot he needed. What started out as a documentary on different farm animal breeds turned out to be a testament on the meaningful and lasting relationship between man and beast.
Aside from farm animals, Arthus Bertrand also extended his man and animal portraiture series to include household pets such as cats and dogs, as well as a special focus on horses around the world. These additional two series show just how much man relies on animals for food, clothing, security and companionship.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand's website, which has more portraits of these furry and fine farm animals, is here. If you want higher resolution images, you can go here. The photographs are freely available as wallpapers, although they are a bit small for today's monitors. Still, it's a beautiful collection well worth browsing. For hardcopies, the farm animal portraits are collected in Good Breeding: Chunky Version. His other projects on animals have also been published in their own titles: Horses, Dogs and Cats.