Natural History is a series of completely candid single exposure images that merge the living and the dead to create allegorical narratives of our troubled co-existence with nature. Ghost-like reflections of modern visitors viewing wildlife dioramas are juxtaposed against the antique taxidermied subjects housed behind thick glass, their faces molded into permanent expressions of fear, aggression or fleeting passivity. After decades of over-hunting, climate change, poaching and destruction of habitat, many of these long dead diorama specimens now represent endangered or completely extinct species.
During the summer of my ninth and tenth years, my mother, in lieu of hiring a babysitter, kept me captive in our hometown Natural History Museum all day, every day. She functioned as a vibrant and quirky volunteer curator while I spent very long, solitary weeks communing with the museum's animals, both living and dead, as well as operating the ancient manual elevator for employees and rummaging through the museum’s disheveled collection of mite riddled, century old periodicals and books housed in a private storage. I have since harbored an immense affection for all things old and musty and mysterious, particularly preserved animals whose half dead/half alive presence is at once fascinating and unnerving.
In 2008, during a long anticipated visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, I accidentally created an intriguing image while “snapshotting” their dioramas. A reflection of my husband, inadvertently rendered in the glass and framed behind a large ostrich, gave me pause. A few months later, I began to frequent diorama exhibits around the country furtively aiming at capturing these narratives. It is both exhilarating and humbling to be the catalyst for these truly alchemical images which are set against a century old stage and born of random timing and fractured light.
All of the animals featured in the book were being raised in captivity. Most were temporary residents at wildlife rehabilitation centers while a few others were being hand-raised at zoos after being rejected by their parents. The introduction relates behind the scenes anecdotes about the making of the book as well as the importance of wildlife rehabilitation.
Finding Home; Shelter Dogs and Their Stories is my sixth book and in many ways, a homecoming for me as it brings me back to where I began ten years ago. With all new content, Finding Home is a companion book to Shelter Dogs, my first book released in 2006, now out of print. With this new book, I wanted to pay tribute stylistically to Shelter Dogs, while expanding the content and scope of the book. Five feature stories "follow" dogs from shelter life into their new homes. In depth bios provide more information about the faces on the pages and a section I'm particularly proud of, "Reflections on Animal Rescue", features short essays from the shelter workers who assisted in the making of the book.
Nocturne: Creatures of the Night features 42 intimate portraits of nocturnal animals. Nocturne is my newest book, released on September 2, 2014 by Princeton Architectural Press. This portfolio features some of my favorite images from the book.
Indian Flying Fox
Raptors: Portraits of Birds of Prey
When I was young, one of the four bedrooms in our house was simply known as ‘the spare room’. In this bare room with no particular purpose, there was an ironing board, a flimsy work desk where my father kept scraps of ivory and etching tools for scrimshaw, random boxes filled with the detritus of family life and numerous animal cages. The animals had usually come home with my mother from the museum where she was a volunteer. The small natural science museum had a lot of dioramas with a menagerie of displayed dead things and a live animal education center where school children came to see and sometimes touch indigenous reptiles and insects along with some exotic specimens like hissing cockroaches and pythons. From time to time, people brought the museum injured or orphaned wildlife and my family functioned as amateur rehabilitators, nursing these animals back to health. This was often done with limited knowledge, usually attributable to the facts and suggestions that the local library and a few native wildlife experts offered up.
Of all of the animals that shared the rather dull, suburban experience of life in the spare room, the one that I remember the most was a tiny screech owl who lived with us for a several months. I believe that this tiny owl had flown into someone’s sliding glass door, of which there were a great many in North Carolina. The panoramic reflections in these giant sheets of glass (as well as those of any window) confuse birds and actually cause many millions of avian deaths every year.
This owl had been stunned and suffered an injured wing. Only about seven inches tall, the little owl that we categorically named ‘Screech’ lived in a small wire cage in the spare room where she perched and slept and clicked her beak when she wanted something. We fed her live, unconscious mice which she swallowed whole, usually pausing with the poor creature’s tail hanging out of the side of her mouth like a post-meal cigarette. Her beautiful feathered eyelids silently opened and closed over huge, unmoving eyeballs while her head swiveled impossibly far around her tiny neck.
I remember being struck by how something so small could be so powerful. Her downy feet were proportionally huge with talons that looked as if they had been filed to a razor sharp point. They gripped the perch with primordial authority and seemed to belong to a much larger, more dangerous animal. There was something almost pre-historic about her, a quiet, but majestic might that the domestic pets we had lacked.
As an animal photographer, I have since discovered that this intensity is present in many forms of wildlife. I think it is what fascinates us about wild animals, this feral wisdom and extreme ability that is encoded in them. It is a body of knowledge that perhaps as a species, we once possessed, but now can only admire in “other” animals.
Whether it is due to intelligence or specific adaptations, some simply species have a greater presence than others. Raptors are without fail among the most enigmatic and powerful creatures in the animal kingdom. They are unfailing graceful and intelligent, fluid and fierce. They deserve our fascination, respect and reverence. That is why I began my project on Raptors which was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2017 as a book.
Street Dogs explores the lives, deaths, and rescues of dogs living alone and in packs on the streets of Puerto Rico and Mexico. In making Street Dogs, I traveled extensively with animal rescuers throughout urban and rural areas of both countries in an attempt to document the many facets of animal abandonment and abuse as well along with the efforts being made to bring about change.
Street Dogs was published as a hardcover book in 2007 by Merrell Publishers.
Wolly and Onxy
New Arrival at Dead Dog Beach
Pack at a Rural Dump
Puppy at a Dump
The Hungry Ghost
The Hungry Ghost is a series of fantastical narrative portraits which explore myth, legend, ritual and fabled beings that humanity has created throughout centuries to help explain our world. Creation, death, ritual, anthropomorphism and the spirit world are common themes in mythological and religious allegory. “The Hungry Ghost” after which the series is named, refers to a metaphorical character that inhabits a type of purgatory in Tibetan Buddhism. The ghost is said to have a bloated stomach and a neck too thin to pass food, resulting in constant hunger and desire.
Walk the Moon
Lilly the Deer
Lilly the Deer is a project that I embarked on with author and friend Ken Foster.
Lilly is an orphaned deer who was born into the world on the side of a busy road after her mother had been hit by car. As a newborn fawn, Lilly was taken in and raised by the family who witnessed the accident. She grew and thrived and now, this suburban family shares their home with a full grown deer who eats in their kitchen, watches television and plays frisbee with the dogs. Several years ago, a neighbor caught a glimpse of Lilly over the stockade fence and that's when the trouble started.
Although Lilly didn't realize there was anything unusual about her family, their situation was in violation of the law which states the wildlife cannot be kept as pets. Initially, the state offered several unacceptable options for Lilly including to either be euthanized or released into the woods, where she would surely die.
As news of Lilly's story spread, the public rallied around Lilly and her family. Several years later,after a lengthy and very public legal battle, it was decided that Lilly would be allowed to stay with her human family and their home was legally declared a wildlife sanctuary for exactly one animal: Lilly.
Together, Ken and I launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project in hopes of turning it into a children's book.
This is a series of portraits that resulted from loss, frustration and opportunity.
Almost ten years ago, I began volunteering at a local animal shelter where I aided in socializing and training impounded dogs. These animals had been abandoned or lost by their owners. Some had been badly beaten or severely neglected. Others had simply been handed over because of inconvenience. Being a photographer, I was soon asked to begin taking photos of all the dogs for internet adoption sites. As my files grew, I realized that many of the dogs whose pictures I had in my archives, never made it out alive.
Despite our efforts, many great dogs had to be euthanized simply to make room for the dozens more brought in every week by animal control. I found that no matter what, I couldn’t bring myself to delete their photos, which were in some cases, the only record of their existence. A few months later, I decided to begin creating true portraits of these dogs.
What amazed me most when I began to look back at this series, was the intense emotion, dignity and sometimes humor that I saw in each face despite the circumstances in which they were forced to live.Every photograph in this series was taken while the dog was impounded in an animal shelter. Some found good homes, others were euthanized.
Shelter Dogs was released as a hardcover book in 2006. The second edition paperback version was released in September 2009 by Merrell Publishers. The book sold over 50,000 copies worldwide. It is now out of print.
My forthcoming book Finding Home: Shelter Dogs and Their Stories is a follow-up to Shelter Dogs.Finding Home is now available for pre-order.
Study of a Hound
These are photos of a hound. Not various hounds or even several hounds, just one singular, individual hound. His name is Felix and he came to us on a plane from Madrid.
Felix is one of tens of thousands of hounds in southern Spain who are specifically bred and used for sport hunting and then discarded when the season is finished. These pure bred dogs, mostly Ibezan Hounds and Spanish Greyhounds (called Podencos and Galgos by Spaniards) are typically hung, tortured or left to starve when they are no longer needed for hunting.
Felix is one of a small handful of dogs that are rescued annually by grassroots animal welfare groups and shipped to eager families in America. In his case, he was found with several dozen other dogs that had been left to starve in an enclosed property that they could not escape from. Unable to walk, belly severely distended from starvation, covered in ticks and inches from death despite being only 7 months old, he was taken in and nurtured in foster care for months before being put on a plane bound for Boston.
The artfulness of this one beautiful, individual dog and all of his parts struck me deeply. His face, legs, snout, ribs and paws all seemed a piece of art in their own right. But all of those artful parts which come together so seamlessly to make a graceful, lithe, intelligent animal are simply viewed as cogs in a disposable machine by the culture of men who abuse these dogs. Perhaps for this reason, I tried to represent he and all of his parts without sentimentality, each as a study of anatomy.
Although singular to me, the reality is that Felix is just a number. In dissecting him visually, I aim to make him whole to the viewer, because the beauty, fragility, poise, intelligence and character found in this one dog, lives in all of them.
For centuries, the wild horses of North America have figured prominently in art, history and folklore as symbols of beauty, strength and freedom. Native Americans revered them, and early ranchers and farmers would not have been able to settle the American West without them. Now, because of such modern threats as urbanization and government round-ups, these creatures are fighting for survival.
This series, shot in 6 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, takes a look at the modern state of America's wild horse.
Wild Horses was published as a hardcover book in 2008 by Merrell Publishers.