Interviewsand Articles


di Rosa Panel Discussion - Enter the Wild: T. Carney, L. Felzmann, R. Whittaker, ,J. Wodening

by Anne Veh, Aug 22, 2013



Photo - Richard Whittaker

Entering the Wild curator Anne Veh introduced her 2012 di Rosa Gatehouse Gallery exhibit with this description: Entering the Wild features the work of artists who share a reverence for the natural world, and specifically for the animal kingdom. Artists Trish Carney, Adriane Colburn, Lukas Felzmann, Charles Hobson, Barry Lopez, Jane Rosen, and Richard Whittaker engage viewers in a conversation about mankind’s relationship to the natural environment and the possibilities of entering into in a deeper relationship and understanding of our wild neighbors. Animals possess heightened modes of sensory awareness that inform their survival and connection to the natural world. Is our limited human awareness an inevitable by-product of contemporary life? What have we forgotten? What can animals teach us if we listen? These questions provide an opening to explore this exhibition.

Anne Veh:  Maybe we’ve all had a feeling of disconnection with the natural landscape. And what does it look like to have a deeper relationship, and especially to the animal kingdom? I really wanted not to tell you what you’re going to see here, but actually for you to see. There’s a real sensitivity to all the work we’re showing. And in many ways that’s very hard to articulate. So tonight I hope the artists will share some insights from their experience and some reflections on their work. And we’ll take it from there.
    And Trish, maybe you can begin. I’m really taken by Trish’s sensitivity and reverence for the wild. She goes out for eight, ten hours at a time and just sits and allows the wild to come to her. What she gets is such a beautiful intimacy, but it’s also a recognition for us. So I would like you to share a little bit about your process and what it’s like.

Trish Carney:  Like Anne said, I go out. But before I get into that, it’s just my interest in wildlife. Obviously I have a really deep interest in going out and being in the company of animals. I wanted to try to photograph that and celebrate being in the company of wildlife and animals. The way I do that is I go out. I usually get interested in a species. I fall in love with a species. And in fact, you can tell I have a little love affair going on with the bobcat. What I do is I decide to shoot them. I’m a little nervous. But I go out and just spend a lot of time. I’ll get familiar with animal’s home ranges. I go out hiking. I try not to stalk animals. I really don’t want to go in pursuit or be a predator or be seen as a predator going out there and following and tracking. I try to go out there and just be in their space. Sometimes I don’t see them at all, but a lot of times I do. I just hang out and let them come to me versus follow them. Sometimes they accept my presence and will keep doing what they’re doing and I’m able to get close. I do have a very long lens, but I’ll just spend the day coming in and around with particular animals. One thing I want to add that’s really important for me is no picture is worth stressing the animals. I think it’s really important to have the ultimate respect of whatever the subject is, wildlife, people or whatever it is. Respect is really crucial for me and trying to learn something about the species and about the animal. A lot of times, that will inform me when I go out again and look for the animals to photograph. Anne: Lukas, in your work in the Sacramento Valley on a road trip you noticed this flock of blackbirds. And you marked it and kept coming back and fell in love with it. It’s a non-descript place that’s kind of between two cities.

Lukas Felzmann:  Yes. I saw this flock and was fascinated and wanted to make more pictures of them. So those two works, the blackbirds and then the work about the Sacramento Valley came as a result of that. And very often I couldn’t find them. They would be somewhere. I didn’t know where, and I would be like looking for them and finding myself in this vast flat territory, the northern Central Valley—which is quite beautiful and an in-between space, because not many people live there. But a lot of people just pass through on the major freeways. So these two pieces in the show here are different. In one the birds were something very specific that I would seek out to photograph. And on the other hand, there were actually pictures that just kind of happened. They happened together with many other pictures— architectures and fields and movement of water, clouds, the atmosphere. When I go out I think about photographing life as it is. And when I was putting this show together, I just started looking through my archive of that place. And started leaving out any pictures that I didn’t think had any signs of animals in it. It was just surprising how many I came up with, because that wasn’t even the particular theme I thought of. Then I started thinking of how the animals are out there in a way so far from us, but at the same time they are also all around us all the time. We create this border and think that the wildlife, the animals are out there. And here we are. There are probably ants underneath us. There are microbes all around us; they’re probably crawling on us. So recently I’ve been thinking about that sense of distance we’ve created in the media and in the culture, but also how we can bridge that somehow. And I was thinking about how animals are portrayed in the TV—I mean there are many different people and many different kinds of work, but most people see TV. They see animal footage, National Geographic, that imagery. There is this sense of drama; there is always something happening. Right? This adventurous, crazy, amazing, charged-up world out there. And when you go out there yourself, you realize that it’s not that way. Those are moments that can happen, but there is also just being, or finding food. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into a good image. So we’ve been like fed this. And then partially another thing that comes in is that the gratuitous images, that’s like entertainment. So to bring those images to people, it has to be some kind of entertainment, otherwise people can’t connect to it. So a lot of people have this idea of nature as this other thing that’s out there and that’s very dramatic and very charged at all the times. And they lose sense of the very power that’s within us, and all around us.

Anne:  Yes, when we actually take time to be in nature we realize how much it feeds our soul. That’s where we tend to slow down and have that sense of gratitude. I love Richard’s driving meditations. You’ll just be driving and you’ll have your camera. And you will just find something in the moment, and click. It’s extraordinary that you’re present to all that’s around you and those key moments.

Richard Whittaker:  I certainly relate to what Lukas and Trish were saying—especially about time. You know, when you’re driving for long distances, you can get into a meditative state without even trying. Something finds you. I mean that’s how photography works for me. Something finds me. It’s interesting because something has been activated in me: it's more than a thought or an idea. You might even call it an innate intelligence of the body. As animals ourselves, there's so much about each one of us that we don’t connect with, so much that's buried under the demands of contemporary life. But all of us are still sensitive to different parts of ourselves even if we’re not conscious of that. So when I photograph, it’s because something in me has responded. Then I notice. Something might be right here. It’s like what Lukas is saying. Nature is actually everywhere. But mostly I'm not present to nature. It seems to take time for something to slow down. Or maybe some special circumstance wakes me up.
     I think it’s fascinating to think of photography as a practice of marking moments when more parts of myself are suddenly vibrating. And it can happen in different ways. It can be in response to an animal. It can be the light. Sometimes when I’ve been hiking for an hour or an hour-and-a-half something shifts. I can feel it; all of the sudden, I’m really there. I have good memories of moments like that.

Anne:  Or let’s say when you’re living in the Rocky Mountains with not many people around, but animals.

Jane Wodening:  Right. I did that. I lived alone up at 10,000 feet for about 10 years in a little cabin. But I wasn’t alone at all, because as soon as I would go out the door, the chickadees would be after me to give them sunflower seeds. And sometimes I could have them follow me through the woods for awhile, three or four of them, or five or six. Then we would go on a ways. And of course, then I would be responsible and bring them all back to the house, because they were very territorial critters. Chickadees are wonderful that way and so charming. They really are charming, lovely people. Anyway, I really do applaud all your talk about connection with nature. I feel strongly that, just simply, we are nature. We are part of nature. And you can’t get out of it! So in the sense of entering the wild, my feeling is, well, we did that now. We’ve always been part of the wild; we are very wild creatures. We are unpredictable and unmanageable, as we all know.

Anne:  I also wanted to mention that Jane Rosen is not here with us tonight, but her work speaks to that place of deep listening to the animals. She has a work in the show called Mayo Reading. Mayo was a beloved dog of Jane’s. And when Mayo was getting on in years and ready to pass on, it was very clear to Jane that there was an extraordinary amount of wisdom that can pass from an animal to you, if you’re open. It’s really about being open to that. While Mayo was sick, she was offered two amazing full-time tenured university positions. But she knew she had to commute and wouldn’t be around and able to spend time with Mayo. So she didn’t take the jobs. She said it was like her whole life changed; the amount of wisdom that came through. And you can see it in her work. I mean there is a recognition, a wisdom that, again, it’s hard to put into words. She talks about her work coming from almost the solar plexus. And when she works with stone, it’s like she hears the vibrations. It’s not with her eyes. And I don’t know if you’d like to speak to that, but I find that so powerful when you can really let go of what it is supposed to look like.

Richard:  Well, I can share a Jane Rosen story, and it exemplifies something about her relationship with animals which, at times, is pretty mysterious. She has this 40-acre ranch out in San Gregorio and she has a couple of dogs. She heard them barking. She explained that there are different kinds of barking. This barking was saying something is happening that isn’t right, but it’s not an emergency.
     So she goes back to her house and there’s this big raven in her dining room. It’s kind of trapped under a chair. So Jane looked at the raven and said—I don’t know if she actually talked out loud—but she said, “Look, you’ve got a big beak and you’ve got those big claws. I’m afraid you could hurt me, but you’re really in a bad spot. I’ll tell you what. I’ll come over and get you out this bad spot, if you don’t hurt me.”
     The raven just was standing under the chair looking at her. So she walked over to the chair, bent down, and she reached out carefully and touched the raven’s head. The raven tilted his beak down. Then she reached under the raven and started picking her up and the raven kind of pulled her feet in. So Jane picked it up this big wild raven and carried it outside to her deck and set it down on the table out there.
     She said, “I thought it would fly away, but it just stood there and looked at me. And after a few moments, it flew away.” They’re friends now, by the way. The raven is a regular visitor.
     I suspect that many of us have animal stories that demonstrate levels of sensitivity that exist, but which we’re not in touch with most of the time. So that’s a good story, isn’t it?
Anne:  I love that story. There are many more stories like that. Jane Wodening has many stories.

Jane W:  I do. Do you want me to tell a story?

Anne:  Yes.

Jane W:  This is a story of a kind of language that Trish—think it was you, wasn’t it? I thought you were mentioning a form of language that isn’t language. I don’t know what to do with all this stuff.

Anne:  Enjoy it.

Jane W:  I will. This story has never been written. It came to mind because Trish is very into owls. It reminded me of this occasion that happened several decades ago. I guess it really starts with being depressed. I’d like to say that when you’re depressed, that’s when the little animals will come and gather all around. That’s when you should listen for messages from the birds, or whatever. Being depressed is a great occasion, if you can use it right. So I was depressed. I was sad. I took off from the house and woke up. I went up a wagon road. A wagon road is about five foot wide. This is wild, old gold mining country from Colorado’s history. So I was walking with my head down and trudging along. And I heard this noise behind me [she makes whooshing sound]. What’s that? Then I heard a steller’s jay just squawking. And then [makes more swooshing noises] came closer and closer behind me. I didn’t want to turn around. It passed over me, and it had a five-foot wingspan. It had two little horns on its head and it was definitely a great horned owl. Flying above him was the steller’s jay just racketing and pestering. I don’t know why little animals love to pester owls. But they do eat birds. I thought, oh, that owl is not going to go far off of this wagon road, because the trees along it are just a little bit farther apart than anywhere else. So calmly and carefully, I looked on either side and continued walking slowly down that wagon road. Finally after a quarter mile or so, there was this tableau off to the right. There was a tree with a big branch and a great horned owl sitting on it. And there was another branch there with a steller’s jay flapping and fiddling on it. So I stopped and I looked at the great horned owl right in the eyes. It was an amazing occasion. I had never had a conversation with an owl, but it seemed like this is what was happening in a great rush, although it may have taken 10 minutes and very possibly did, because I had no sense of time. It was too much for thinking about time. The owl, with his big owl eyes looking at me, was sending out—he was telling me, he was giving me information with no language. But it was like everything he knew. He was telling me his insights. And I told him my insights. I hope I was open enough to do that. I wasn’t really as adept as he was. For however much time it took, he gave me all of this information. And I felt gratitude. It was just overwhelming. I still find the memory of his eyes, it was just—maybe I’m getting more information as I talk about it. And at the end he finally stopped pouring it out and, you know how they can turn on ball bearings. He did that and then turned back to me and he said, “Would you mind shooting that steller’s jay?” I swear he said that. I mean he didn’t say any words, but I mean there was nothing else he meant but that. That’s the end of the story.

Richard:  Did it help your depression at all? [laughter from the audience]

Jane W:  [laughs] Yes. Quite a bit actually, Richard. You know, it’s really a problem of thinking, well, if for instance, I looked at a baby and went, ‘Oooooh,” and wiggled my fingers, what would I be saying? With things like this people will say, oh, it’s just probably coincidence. That’s one of those bad words, to me. No. I think they are expressing themselves a lot in their eyes and in the angle of the head and in the way they move their shoulders. In the way they fly. You know? And they are living real lives. Not only that, they are able to find food in the wild all by themselves. So they’re not stupid. That needs to be discarded. So yes, I think we should try to understand them. And I don’t think it’s difficult. You just have to admit that that gesture means that, and believe it. The only thing I did with that orangutan in my story was believe her. That’s what I did. I felt that, unlike those little old ladies that I always thought were just full of it, that she would be telling the truth. What else could it be? Those were her movements. I’m just telling you the movements. You read the information from that.

Trish:  A lot of times when I am out in nature I feel like the language or the exchange that I’m having with their eyes, and it’s sort of a dance of body language. And it’s respecting that language. A lot of the time I’m trying to note what’s happening and not being that concerned with what it means, but just kind of getting lost in this dance that’s happening. It’s also a dance of patience. I feel like we learn a lot about other species or an animal by just slowing down and observing for long periods of time, or a return visit. To me, it’s a lot about body language and just respecting them.

Jane W:  Yes. It is body language and just learning to read it. And actually trust it; to trust it. Yes.

Trish:  Yes, accept it. And we’re operating at different intelligences and one is not better than the other. They are just different.
Jane W:  Very different.

Richard:  Let me just ask you, Trish. [ turning to the audience] I have a little portfolio of Trish’s photography in the current issue of this magazine I publish, works & conversations. I wanted to publish her photos, because I felt they’re a cut above. [speaking now to Trish] I would say your images have poetry. I don’t think we have very good language for certain special visual qualities, so “poetry” works for me. And I wonder, could say anything about what you feel about the photos you’ve settled upon, the ones that represent something really meaningful for you?

Trish:  I actually was just thinking about that as I was coming in tonight and seeing them. I hadn’t seen them in a while. And I’m realizing so much that these images in particular and a lot of those others, I think they’re kind of a tribute to a fleeting moment that I had up there. I’ll see something. A lot of times it’s a split second, and I don’t like the word “capture,” but for lack of a better word, you know, I’ll capture that moment. I think a lot of the work I’ve done lately, in a way it’s like rewarding or true moments—or it’s like the story behind the mountain lion. I think one of the reasons I wanted to do it so big and fragmented was there was a day where I went out with a wildlife research team, the Felidae Conservation Fund. They study mountain lions in the Bay Area. And I was able to go out and photograph with them. I had an amazing experience being able to see a mountain lion up close. A lot of the lions went up in a tree. But what you don’t see is that animal was completely stressed out. There were barking dogs at the base of the tree. And I was told six months later that it was shot by a rancher who was able to get permission to shoot it. So sometimes I look at these images and ask myself why do I do this? And I just want to make some kind tribute to that moment. I know the story behind that image and it’s important to me to just have it out there. And I think that having that image that big also might help someone think about how they feel about mountain lions, because definitely not everybody’s a big fan of them. Or haven’t been close to them. So for me, it’s a lot about tribute and memorial and celebration of a particular animal species.
Anne:  Well, I had some experiences recently, I was visiting a very wise man who has a wild life refuge. He has been taking animals in who were shot in the wild and just cannot survive on their own. So he has about 50 animals that he cares for. And he’s very clear that these are wild animals. It’s beautiful to see the relationship that he has developed with the animals, but it is about being a hundred percent aware and present at all times. And never letting your ego in to say, oh well, we have this relationship and we’re close. To never take it to that level, because the minute you do, that’s when it happens. The animal will either get aggressive or— you just need to be so respectful of that relationship. And then if you are, they can be incredible teachers.

Trish:  This might sound kind of corny, but to me, animals kind of make—I don’t know how to say it. Going out there and spending time and watching them and observing them, it kind of makes me a better human. Because the more I’m out there and the more I can understand them and learn something and forget taking a photograph, it makes me realize that they are part of us. They are all around us. They’re important. They matter. And hopefully in some way through my artwork, I can get it to come across that they matter. At least this one photographer thinks they are really important. Maybe I can have conversations with people about why that is. You can talk to somebody and maybe, all of a sudden, they start talking to you about the owls in their backyard. You’ve got an opportunity to talk to them about not using poisons for rodents, and how about putting in an owl box. They’re natural rodent killers, and things like that.

Anne:  Jane and I were having an interesting conversation earlier before the panel about Barry Lopez’s beautiful essay “Apologia,” which was an essay he wrote when he was taking a road trip from Indiana to his home in Oregon. Along the way he would come across road kill. And he would stop and bury each one in honor of their life. And Jane has a different perspective, saying well, you know, if we bury that animal how does its family know what happened to it? You know you’re taking it away. And there’s a part where we’re getting in the way of a healthy ecosystem. And yes, it’s done out of a place of reverence, but there is a big discussion.

Jane W:  Yes. He is saying this animal is equal to any man. And so I can respect that statement, but I wouldn’t do it.
Anne:  It’s a different perspective.

Jane W:  Yes. Barry Lopez is a great writer.

Anne:  A beautiful writer, but it’s interesting to hold these different ways that we think. I hope that taking time to really think about that will bring your own insights. I don’t know if some of you have some questions. Linda?

Linda Conner:  I have one. Because I know something about all of you; I know you all have domestic pets, as well. Have your domestic pets tuned you into the wild ones a little bit more? Or vice versa?

Trish:  I would say yes. I have a dog and two cats. And I’ll tell you, I watch my cats a lot and they are tuned into a lot. There is a lot of similar behavior with their wild cousins out there, and all that. But then also I tune into just energy and then back to body language. When I start doing that, it’s no different than being out with wild species. How about you guys?

Jane W:  I have chickens. And I had chickens years ago, too when I was raising my kids. To put away a dozen chickens in the middle of the afternoon so you can get to the movie on time, takes all five kids chasing the chickens. You know? Patiently, patiently, walking slowly towards the chicken house in kind of this dance. And of course, if a chicken gets away, then you kind of have to start over. I thought well maybe this time, I wouldn’t do it that way. I would put them to bed in some more amiable fashion. So when they were little, I started feeding them this scratch as a treat. When I went to the garbage can and rattled it to grab up some scratch, that was to call them all to me. I could just toss that scratch into the pen. And they went in and I shut the door.

Audience:  Who is training who?

Jane W:  I am learning about flock behavior. I have to talk to Flossy more than anyone else because she is in charge of things. So I have to talk with her and get her interested in what I am doing. And she likes scratch as much as anybody. Yes, I am learning a lot from handling them in a gracious way, in a manner gracious to a chicken, because the other system is kind of a predatory way. I got it from this kind of romantic image of ancient peoples herding a herd of deer or something into a trap. I just thought that was really something. But that was not really the kind of attitude I wanted to have with my chickens this time. Now I’ve got a more friendly relationship with them. So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Richard:  The thing I would single out is that at time I'm just sitting quietly and looking my dog, ULA. Her name means "Unidentified Little Animal." Sometimes, looking at her, I realize—I feel—the reality of the incredible mysteriousness of this world where such things exist. I mean, ordinarily, “Oh, there’s a dog.” But to feel the reality of this beautiful, sentient animal being — I don’t think I can express it very well. It’s just to feel for a moment how beautiful and mysterious this world is. At times looking at an animal just does that. You know?

Jane W:  That’s very nice, Richard.

Anne:  I was actually in a park next door to our home. And there was this little baby in the swing. I took our two dogs out on a collar. They’re old Labradors, both guide dogs, both really sweet girls. And the baby just wanted to get out and touch the dogs. You see this, a six month old baby just focused on the animal. There is something beautiful about that, so simple to find that kind of joy. My dogs remind me to slow down. I take them on a walk and they smell everything. And I love that. They take a joy in that. So they are great teachers. You had a question?

Audience:  Yes. Trish, I know you said you would rather spend hours just being. I mean, that’s just incredible to sit there and do that. Is it like day after day that you do that?

Trish:  Sometimes. I mean, basically whenever I go out that would kind of be my approach. And I usually start really early in the morning and go out.
Same person:  Would it depend on where you were?

Trish:  Yes. I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of time out there looking for bobcats in particular. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll get very interested in a particular animal and I want to know everything I possibly can about it. But I want to know it from direct observation, not just from books. But I want to do it in a respectful way and not affect their behavior too much. If I see that I am doing that, I back off.

Same person:  So are you still doing that?

Trish:  Recently not as much. What I’m doing lately is photographing people who work within wildlife rehabilitation and rescue. So I’m still around animals a lot, photographing them as a subject, but in a different way right now—which is kind of nice. It’s a little bit more up close and personal. And I am trying to figure out how to do all of that, because the animals are very stressed and scared.

Audience:  Have you ever felt danger yourself?

Trish:  No. For the most part I haven’t. There have been a couple of times where a bear changed course. It was a nerve-wracking moment. But everything worked out. But I don’t feel afraid when I’m out there. I don’t put myself in danger. I don’t harm the animals and I try to do everything with the best etiquette that I can. To be honest, I’m more worried about people, because I go out photographing by myself. And nobody knows where I am going. I’ve had more concern about that than I do with the wild animals. It’s just an organic danger that you accept when you’re out there. You just try to be smart about everything you do.
Audience:  I’m a retired teacher of little kids. But I’m interested your teaching at Stanford. Can you describe what you do as a teacher?

Lukas:  They’re photography classes, so they’re full range from introduction to projects classes. I think what’s interesting here—and from what I hear from my colleagues, too—is this state that you’re describing, this kind of reverence. This kind of being there certainly has to do with animals, but I think it also has a lot to do with art making. It has to do with photography. It has to do with writing. It’s about looking. It’s about being in the moment and being ready to see something, to hear something, write something. Of course, you try to make something out of that. The technique used could be photography. My class would help to give the students tools to do that. But it’s mostly, I think, by talking about the process and kind of making them aware of the process. But what’s interesting is how the animals trigger this need to replicate that. And I wanted to ask Jane in terms of your writing and telling stories about these great moments you have with animals—why do you write?

Jane:  I find speaking difficult enough. And writing is even more difficult. It’s all very hard to do. But I write so that I can understand what I saw. That’s the best answer, I think. I think I write to understand.

Anne:  Well Lukas, I’m fascinated to ask you, too, because I consider you almost like a sculptor the way you form your works. It’s a very poetic exercise. And especially in Swarm with the essays from very different perspectives. Is there a teaching within that that we can learn from? It’s fascinating how you make those choices.

Lukas:  When I photograph, I don’t understand what is going on. And I don’t even try to, because if you’re too intellectually invested in the picture you’re making, you’re probably not getting it. You have to, in a way, just let those happen. But then in photography, and other visual arts, you have to manually make something; an image, a negative, a print—then, maybe, a book. And then I try to understand; I’m trying to make sense. What’s interesting is that even though trying to understand is an intellectual process, it can also be another kind of process in terms of sequencing and imagery and rhythm. Then also from the other side there’s trying to understand through language.

Audience:  When Anne approached you all to do this exhibit, how did you decide which pieces you were going to share? Or did Anne decide that?

Anne:  That’s a good question, because each one was very different. Maybe Lukas, you can speak from your experience of being part of this.

Lukas:  Well Anne brought in ideas and feelings and interests about animals in the natural world. And once that was established, I went searching in my work to find what I could pull out in response to that. The birds were an obvious link we had, but then I said, let’s see what else is there. I started musing through my archives to fill in this space we had talked about. And then I edited things and put it together.

Trish:  I think the video was the one thing that Anne wanted for sure. And you were wonderful. I decided to do a bobcat wall. Then I showed her a few other images. I was suddenly pushing for the mountain lion, I think.

Anne:  Actually, it wasn’t pushing. It was fun, because we talked about doing something really big, just covering the entire wall with this image. Then we just sat with it. And all of a sudden I just thought that’s not the right way to approach it. Then we talked about how are we going to bring it down? How about we break it up into triptych? And cost was a big factor, too. But it all came out as it needed to be.

Jane W:  We were both thrilled.

Anne:  I hope that I’m a curator who is really listening to what artists want to show. What I love about this show is I didn’t know what it was going to look like. And it was beautiful to see how it just started to come together—just naturally—like, “Oh, Jane, it would be so interesting to have a conference with Lukas. And Jane [Rosen] and Richard, they have this beautiful friendship. They’ve done many interviews together. So all these loose threads kept building on each other. And that’s when the magic happens. And it’s a joy. There are always these little gifts that come, like having a studio visit with Lukas. So there’s this beautiful sharing that goes on. I think that’s how it often goes. Yes, Richard?

Richard:  Yes. I know there are some photographers who are bringing us extremely painful images, like the of albatrosses who have died because they’ve eaten the plastic from these huge gyres in the oceans. And it occurred to me there's something so out of balance in our culture in so many ways, and particularly in terms of having a relationship to ourselves as animals, or beings, in nature. And one of my photos was chosen because it reflects on that in a funny way. There’s this forlorn dog at this empty tourist viewing station at Monument Valley. I was standing there with my camera and suddenly I just saw it. I saw how it communicated an existential disconnection between us and the real world. I didn’t take the picture in order to be didactic. It just it found me. It’s kind of a disturbing image, but I was thrilled to catch it.

Lukas:  It’s really an important issue, because the scientists don’t really connect with the individual. And when we do think about the individual, sometimes it becomes sentimental, but nevertheless it’s important to be aware of both, because that’s the only way to really resolve the problems of that nature or to really reconnect with them.

Trish:  I think it’s crucial to see the animals as individuals. If we see them only as a species, it’s, “Oops, the species is gone.” You know? Not until we relate to animals as other individuals, will we really make any headway. It’s too abstract to start thinking of things in large groups like that. So I think it’s crucial.

Anne:  I think also with the spread of YouTube and Internet TV you get all these stories. I was sent a video of this gentleman in Baja, California. He had come across this whale that was caught in ghost nets. It was drowning. He knew that this whale had maybe 40 minutes to live. Not enough time to get help. They had nothing on board but their cutting pliers. So he gets in the water and swims around the whale to let him know it’s not a threat. And he starts working as fast as he can. Finally he released one fin and came up. And then he went to work on the second fin. And the whale had some movement. It started to drag the boat. Then it got exhausted again. He realized if we don’t get the tail, it’s going to die. So they went to work on the tail and he was able to free the tail. Then the whale was free, and it swam around and then for the next 45 minutes. It did these joyous leaps like almost a display for them of gratitude. And the gratitude and the communication between this animal and this man forever changed him. He has now started an organization for the whales. It is called Saving Valentina. We do have a choice and it starts with us. And it starts with recognizing that they’re individuals.



About the Author

Anne Veh is an independent curator and contributing editor for works & conversations.  


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