One of the most common, everyday ways that we experience animals’ existence is by their representations – as decorations, mascots, rides, plush toys. It’s fascinating to me how prevalent animals are in so many parts of the world, yet how unconsidered their lives (and deaths) are. Because I think all humans should be considering this fact more, I’m always intrigued by art that does so.

Artist John Barrow retired from a career as an engineer and computer scientist, and began exploring and learning about photography. Having moved to a small rural village, the material he could explore was his immediate surroundings: the grasslands of the South African highveld and its inhabitants. “The contrast between the relationship of rural dwellers, often living close to subsistence levels, and of urban dwellers to the animal world became clear when I looked at the photographs I was taking,” writes John. “I realised that both groups of people are caught in ambivalent, though very different, relationships with animals. The selection I’m offering here considers mainly urban dwellers and what appears to be a strong and pervasive need to introduce reminders of their animal links and needs into an urban existence.”

From the artist’s statement: Whether deliberately or not, the attitudes of our modern civilisation toward our fellow animals are often reflected in the representations we create. Our public spaces are filled with these representations, not only as specific works of art but also as spontaneous expressions of the space animals occupy in our general consciousness. These embodiments often seem to be substitutes for the Real Thing, for closer coexistence with the natural world.

My aim with this series of photographs is to encourage moments of deliberation about the way we simultaneously relinquish our fellow animals to a lesser plane of existence and also wish to assert our inclusion in a wider world where animals nourish our human experience.

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