The idea of the ‘animal’ is vast and varied. The Visualising the Animal exhibition (produced by Carlisle Photo Festival in collaboration with Visualising Conferences) questions the nature of animals and our relationship with them. Visually, the importance of our relationship to animals is reflected in a rich history of animal imagery, from cave paintings to contemporary art. How, then, does photography portray our relationships with animals in society today?
For my part in this exhibition, I collaborated with felt artist Em Fountain to produce a series of black and white portraits. The animal masks are made of wool and hand-made felt, and anonymise their maker hidden within. Nodding towards Jung’s ideas of the feminine inner personality, the anima as a creative source, and the anthromorphic nature of an animal mask, these portraits seek to present a dreamy unworldliness in which the stag poses in a heavy woollen coat, the raven perches with a staff and the badger sits demurely in a plain studio. We know the animals are not real, but the formal pose allows us to look for, and imagine, their personalities and the fables they may feature in. This is a work in progress, with the future intention of showing both masks and portraits together whenever possible.
Visualising the Animal is a touring exhibition. It was shown in Carlisle and Durham in 2015, and in Workington in 2016.