In Sharon Lee Hart’s Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals, we see chickens, goats, cows, pigs, and other “livestock” animals in tender, humanizing portraits. The creatures in Hart’s pictures were rescued from lives of abuse and neglect on farms and photographed where they are now cared for at farm animal sanctuaries. It is clear from Hart’s photographs that the animals are “unique beings with emotions and characteristics as diverse as any human.” In each image, there is a definite sense of the subject’s personality, and the animals have an air of dignity, as well as an undeniable expression of peacefulness and almost gratitude. As in Isa Leshko’s Elderly Animals series, I love this portrayal of animals as more than commodities or products and more than even pets–as other creatures with which we share the planet and that should be treated and respected as well as humans.

From the artist’s statement: The few cows and pigs I encountered growing up struck me as similar to our beloved dogs and cats, but I noticed early on that they were not treated with the same love and respect. With pitifully few laws protecting farmed animals, many are forced to live in small confinement crates, mutilated, mistreated, and deprived of even the most basic necessities. This project created an opportunity to photograph the resilience and spirit of rescued farm animals and to show them as beings with a life in their own right, separate from human concepts imposed on them.

I visited and photographed animal residents at ten US farm animal sanctuaries in Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan and New York State, which are all dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and lifelong care of abused and neglected farmed animals. The process of making a formal portrait of an individual started with observing and waiting until they approached me. Putting myself in the position necessary to engage and make eye contact with the animal, I was able to capture the encounter between us.

The sanctuary enables the animals to grow old and live out their full natural life span, not afforded to animals that are typically raised to slaughtered at a very young age. Every single survivor in this series represents a “lottery winner” that now lives in a safe, loving environment. This stands in contrast to the billions of their species that will never make it to a sanctuary. In those ways, each portrait is a plea to help those who are still suffering.

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