Love, in Other Forms
“Love, in Other Forms” is a photographic essay that displays people with their
pets, most specifically, the love and companionship between the two. I used friends and strangers with their pets to get the shots that I felt appropriately displayed their feelings for one another. Although, I have to say, it’s hard getting emotion out of a Hermit Crab. !
I used my iPhone 4 camera and an online tool, Picasa, to get the perfect look for
each shot. Since I was working with living subjects, I wanted to be able to shoot plenty of exposures per subject, in able to find the perfect image; my iPhone provided the necessity for quick shots as well as the option to immediately view all that I had taken. All of the images include a blurred background and lighting effects to bring attention to the human and animal pictured. I didn’t want to create a stark or similar background for each image because I wanted to capture both human and animal in their natural environment, whether that happened outside on the driveway or in the house next to the front door. !
Body language is a cue, it is evidence, and the body language of each individual
and animal can tell a story all on its own (changingminds.org). I asked the subjects to “act like you love your pet” without any regard to creating a certain body language. When I got home, I was able to study the images to find similarities between people and their pets.
Out of all the twelve images shown here, none of the subjects are looking at the camera, but they are each involved with the other in the image, completely and entirely focused on each other. I felt that having a person look at the camera instead of their pet would create a more staged-feel and lack the love and companionship I was looking for. In each picture, there is a connection between animal and human, either in the form of hugging, licking, touching, or petting. !
I decided to ask Google what love is to make the expression more concrete and
understandable. “Love is bigger than you are. You can invite love, but you cannot dictate how, when, and where love expresses itself” (Anapol, D). One aspect of love is that you cannot pick who you love, as it grows naturally out of a relationship. !
The body language pictured here, such as cuddling, hugging, petting, touching,
shows a closeness from one to the other. The dog licking the owners face shows “her love forming a wet mask on [their] face” (Parise, 2011). !
To bring attention to the human and pet, I blurred out the background slightly, not
enough to draw attention to itself, but enough to give the rocks and wall of leashes a muted look. I mentioned my intentions to capture my subjects in their natural environment, but there are a few images taken from inside a pet store. I argue that this is a natural environment for these people and their pets, since they continue going to the store together, and using the environment to socialize their pets to other animals. While the store is not their home environment, it is still part of their natural environment, a place where they go naturally. I want to discuss the first image in further detail. This is Kelly and Shadow in their house, which I visited for the first time. We all stood mostly in the front hallway, and I
found the light there to be soft and agreeable to my project. I took about twenty shots of Kelly and Shadow; I loved this one the most. The emotion is very subtle here, and the lighting brings in a soft touch as well. We see Shadow lying on the floor, one paw on Kelly’s leg, his head lifted from the floor and pointed toward her face. Kelly is sitting, haunched over toward Shadow, her eyes staring back at his. While she isn’t physically touching Shadow, we can see that the dog is yearning for a pet from his owner. !
While I was there, if Kelly or I stopped petting Shadow, he would stare at us until
we would pet him again. In this image, with his paw on her leg, I can feel the “pet me, please pet me” emotion emanating from Shadow. As for the rule of thirds, if we dissect the image, we can clearly see where the focus lies in the image: the gaze between owner and pet.
This angle also affords for the diagonal created by the table behind the main subjects, a feature that draws the viewer’s eyes toward Kelly, which then leads down to Shadow, creating a Z shape.
Since I touched-up each image with blur, color brightening/softening, and other tools offered in PhotoShop, Peter Henry Emerson, as mentioned in the book Classic Essays on Photography, wouldn’t consider my work as legitimate or artful, but the work of a charlatan, “when the charlatans talk of
improving photographs for the illustrated press know that they merely take a photograph and daub it with unmeaning patches of paint to hide the work of the camera...” (104). Even with the alterations to the images, I feel that the body language, the focus of the image, and the subjects artfully portray love between human and animal. But am I attempting to call my photography art? The concept of photography as a form of art has been controversial since the first camera was invented, in the early-to-midnineteenth century. From Bauldelaire, Robinson and Emerson to Sontag and Barthes, photography has been considered re-presentation of reality to being a poetic interpretation of the realistic world. Here, I have images of humans and animals, focusing on the interpretation of body language to illustrate the idea of Love. Is this art? Was there anything I excluded from these images? Yeah, sure. I took a few pictures in Petsmart and in peoples’ homes that included other people in the background, but I didn’t want them in the frame. I wanted the lifeforms to be those in the middle, those I want the audience to pay attention to. I mentioned that these weren’t truly staged, since I only asked the person to “act like [they] love their pet.” Yet, according to Errol Morris, my active decision to keep something out of the frame could be considered staging.
Works Cited: Anapol, D. (2011, November 25). What is love? [blog post] Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-without-limits/201111/what-is-love Emerson, P.H. (1980). Hints on art. In A. Trachtenberg (Ed.), Classic essays on photography (99-105). New Haven, Connecticut: Leeteâ€™s Island Books. (Parise, L, personal communication, March 14, 2012) Straker, D. (2010). Understanding body language. In Changing Minds. Retrieved from http://changingminds.org/explanations/behaviors/body_language_ body_language.htm