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