A Closer Look at the Ambassadors

I started the project "Ambassadors" in 2016, and it is still ongoing for me. The project questions me and my audiences tendency to anthropomorphize animals; Meaning to place upon the animals, symbols, and expressions that are too human. This tendency I believe inhibits our ability to understand further and even respect nature and its wildlife. I think there is a more significant message being told by these ambassadors that are deafened when we insert our image on them. In many ways, we become more concerned with ourselves than the animal, and we ignore the bigger picture or rather, the bigger message. 

This is their story of survival, not ours, not mine. The species are vanishing. For me, acknowledging the importance of species survival is to recognize the significance of its ambassador. It is the animals we see in Modern Zoos, Wild Game Reserves, and Sanctuaries that give us the opportunity to celebrate their life and understand their species survival. There is no doubt that we love animals, I am fascinated and entirely humbled by them. Their textures, patterns, and movements are complicated and foreign to me. These characteristics inspire and excite people and myself. "Ambassadors" hits pause for just a moment putting my viewer and me in an intimate conversation with a unique and utterly singular animal.   

How do I choose? Why in that moment do I take the photo? I first observed the textures and uniquenesses of individual animals and photographed them. Then I began to think about the commitment of eye contact. In my experience eye contact is very brief with animals, but it is also compelling. I usually say when the animal is not looking at me, but through me, I take the photo. Not that the animal does not see me but the impact of the gaze is so substantial that it feels fleeting. The gaze and the animal feel like they will vanish altogether. What's left behind for me is many overwhelming feelings of saddens, despair, and eventually hope and power. The conversation of vulnerable, endangered, and extinct species begin to surfaces. Our problems and solutions are significant and complicated, but as long as we love animals, there is hope. 

"The continued existence of wildlife and wilderness is important to the quality of life of humans."

- Jim Fowler

Into the "Wild"

The more I photograph the wilderness, the more I question what it is.

Manufacturing National Park Nature by J. Keri Cronin analyzes how various groups and the tourism industry have used photographic representations of national parks to shape our ideas about nature.

The other day I took a photo of a very playful Andean bear cub atop a tree structure at the Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland (see below). My brain jumped back to Cronin’s book and a segment titled “The Bears are Plentiful and Frequently Good Camera Subjects.” The idea that between zoos and National Parks a level of wildness has been lost from sacrifices to the economic demand for nature. So then I went through some images I took in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and I found a photograph of a doe (see below). I had made the photo while in a massive car line through Cades Cove. At the moment I took both of these images the animal didn’t mind me being there. However, I was a lot closer to the doe than I was the bear. Both occasions celebrate nature and wildlife, but on an even more grand scale, I question the act of me being in these spaces. It is more concerning that where one might expect wilderness to be wild it doesn’t necessarily behave as such.

Then I started thinking more as Cronin references a 1942 publication that proclaimed in Jasper National Park “animals become so tame they may be posed easily for pictures, especially deer, elk, mountain sheep, goats, and bear. In addition, When this sediment is compared with a quote from a 2003 Parks Canada brochure, in which the level of wildness of non-human animals living in the national parks is compared with that of those living in zoos, it becomes apparent that notions of wild and tame have not remained consistent throughout history of these spaces". (118)

In addition, the book Wilderness and the American Mind By Robert Frazier Nash talks about the Irony of Victory when it comes to wilderness. In other words, the same things that drive our love for nature may result in “loving wilderness to death.” All of which sounds hopeless. 
When I get that way I think of a quote:

"Take personal responsibility. There is no list of 10 things we can do and no simple shortcut. 
We are out of easy choices, and from now on, every choice we make will be harder, because the impacts, both positive and negative are becoming more obvious. Every consumer choice, every political choice, every investment we make needs to made with full information-its the only attitude that can change history.”
-Christina Metmeir

I adore zoos and our national parks, these are the places I connect to nature, and for many, it is the same. I am so very passionate about these sites as well, and I think it is healthy for many of us to reflect on the definition of wilderness today. It could be as involved as analyzing the age-old debate of Anthropocentrism vs. Biocentrism, to something as simple as questioning the authenticity of a postcard. I have provided more questions than I have answers, but I aim to find answers to many of my questions. I think now more than ever these conversations must be had and responsibility on all of our parts must be taken.

I See Fog

When I need to think, I mean really think; about myself and about my ideas I typically hop in my car and drive. I don't think I am alone in this, but if you haven't done it before, do it! 

Sometimes the rain, fog, wind, or any unusual weather condition you can think of becomes an excuse not to get lost within yourself and your camera. I find it exhilarating to dive headfirst into a new atmosphere. With no plans, there is no telling what will happen. 

When you find yourself more alone in nature than is usual, the wilderness tends to show you something you might have never seen and likely will never see again. I like to think that a lot of my dealings with nature is all about listening. In an age where we are always on the go and focused on ourselves, reverting back to our instinctual connection to nature is pivotal. I've read several books about the origins of wilderness and mans fear with such vast and untamed land. I often think in some ways these same fears exist today, but maybe it's not the wilderness that scares us it's being alone in the wilderness. 

The wilderness that remains today, in its fragile state, has something to teach us but to learn we must listen and perhaps we will be better for it.

 

Still the body, Still the mind, Still the voice inside, In silence, Feel the stillness move.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -Kabir                     

Behind The Photos, We Will Go

Starting to think its a good idea to start a blog. So let me introduce myself. My name is Abbey Bratcher; I am a photographer from Memphis, TN currently living and working in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I am so incredibly passionate about wildlife and our amazing natural world. I was born into a family that has inspired my love for the planet and its wildlife. My goal as a human being and an artist is to create work that not only celebrates nature but also challenges our relationship with it.

So right here I will take you behind my photographs and into my thoughts and inspirations.

 The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains