Last week's image feature on Tim Flach's action portrait of an English Springer Spaniel was so striking that it would be a shame not to feature more from the photographer. With a new publication that's about to come out, it's quite timely to have Tim Flach on this blog again, this time on his upcoming book, "More Than Human".
Tim Flach has already been featured twice on this blog for his two previous projects, Dogs Gods and Equus. With Dogs, Flach showed how thousands of years of human interaction have produced hundreds of different dog breeds, from the small Chihuahua to the large Great Dane. In Equus, the photographer again illustrated how humans have shaped these four-legged animals, from the wildest Icelandic horses to the fastest thoroughbreds.
With his latest book, More than Human, Flach expands his horizon and looks around at the thousands of other species of animals on the planet, pointing out what makes them both different and similar to Homo sapiens. The collection contains images he took many years ago, as well as newer images he took specifically for this project.
In many of these animal portraits, Flach focuses on one action or inaction that makes these creatures similar to humans. A mother bonobo lovingly clutching on to her sleeping baby, or a great ape looking directly at the camera with soulful eyes evoke feelings of fraternity when looking at the images. These portraits are not unlike James Mollison's "James & Other Apes" which almost humanizes these animals, although Flach approaches the subject from a different point of view.
In other images, these comparisons are thrown out the window, and an objective portrait is shown. Here, the simple form of the animal, whether in movement or at rest, is highlighted. A dove taking wing shows the wondrous geometry of organic flight, while a genetically-engineered featherless chicken evokes questions of human interference in the natural world. Thus, the beauty of these portraits derive from the beauty of the animals themselves.
"What do we see when we look at creatures other than our own species? How do we interpret them? What do we want from this looking?" These are some of the questions that Flach wants to provoke in viewers. In some images, he uses the eerie human-like features of these animals to ask these unnerving inquiries. In others the animal's simply form honed from thousands of years of evolution are by themselves worthy of a portrait without questions.
While these portraits might ask the viewer, "What does it mean to be an animal?", amidst such beautiful biodiversity, it also leaves a more profound query, "What does it mean to be human?"
More images from "More Than Human" can be found on Tim Flach's website. Check out Flach's other work on Dogs and Horses featured on this blog. You can pre-order the soon-to-be released More than Human. His older publications Dogs and Equus are still available online.