Over the weekend, I visited a wildlife center that’s home to big cats, birds, and all kinds of reptiles. I took a tour of the center, which isn’t necessarily run by wildlife professionals, and I couldn’t help noticing each time an animal was anthropomorphized by my guide. Commonly, we ascribe to animals human qualities so that we can try to better understand the actions of the creatures share the planet with. Maija Astikainen’s series, One-Dog Policy, titled as such in reference to countries like China where a one-dog policy is enforced in addition to their one-child policy (source), explores this humanization of pets in photos. Even when an animal is acting, emoting, or posing as a human would, we cannot know what it is thinking or feeling, and we cannot assign to it our own interpretations. That is important to remember.
From the artist’s statement: Dogs are the most common pets and they are often seen and treated more like one of the family members than animals. I’m interested in anthropomorphism, the habit of adding human characteristics to animals. The gestures of dogs are easily misinterpreted. They look guilty to us when they have done something wrong, and they seem to be laughing when something good is happening. The series of portraits was shot in Helsinki and Madrid during the years 2010-2014. The project is ongoing.
Visit artist's site: maijaastikainen.com