Before the Living With Animals conference, I tried to look up each speaker to get an idea of their work. There were some folks I couldn’t find online, and so some talks I went into with only a basic idea of what to expect. In the case of Carole Baker and her talk “Where is Home? The Unpredictability of Life as a Cypriot Stray Dog,” I’m glad I got to see the work for the first time and learn about it straight from the artist all at once. Carole’s photographs at dog rescue centers across Cyprus are so rich, deep, and moving, and the content hit close to home as I have also used photography to explore issues of domestic animal overpopulation. Recently, Carole has begun making work at horse rescue centers in Egypt. I think both sets of pictures create a beautiful, heartbreaking testament to a difficult truth of our times.

From the artist’s statement: I have been making photographic work in Cyprus for almost two years in response to the comparatively large numbers of stray dogs on the island, to the island-wide policy to capture, incarcerate, and kill after 15 days, and to the complex system of sanctuaries which rescue and re-home. Recently I have begun working with sick and rehabilitating horses in a rescue in Egypt. My work uses a diverse selection of visual and textual representations, including my own photographic enquiry, in dialectical opposition, to expose and challenge the inherent ideologies and philosophical positions underpinning the social practices governing non-human animals. Informed by Feminism and Postcolonialism, the work engages with notions of power and powerlessness, otherness, hybridity and marginalisation, echoing the instability and conflict evident in Middle Eastern politics.

Using a polyvocal approach, I provide an imaginative space where notions of power and coercion, identity and representation can emerge and be subject to scrutiny. This approach promotes a re-evaluation of our understanding of, and hence relationship with, non-human animals, and I explore Weil’s suggestion that, “[t]o be dumb… is not to be lacking in language, but to have an alternate means of apprehending the other and the world.” (Weil 2012)

The work is a ‘Critical Realist’ method of committed investigative practice, involving rigorous research that seeks to uncover and understand a pre-existing social reality. The photographs themselves cannot reveal the history of dogs in Cyprus or horses in Egypt, nor their socio-political imperatives, but they can show the consequences of policies and practices and suggest alternative perspectives. This work then seeks to navigate the complex territory between representation and the ‘reality’ it transforms, and to examine whether this can become a catalyst for social activism. Activists seek to illuminate that invisible picture, to amplify that unheard voice, to reveal that untold story; they are “… always seeking some evidence necessary to maintain, retain, or restore liberty for someone somewhere…” (Bogre 2012)

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