Scrub and a Massage

Farmer Allen gives a lucky cow, a back massage

Farmer ingenuity. A repurposed car wash brush, is used as a scratching post for farmer Allen’s herd.

Who doesn’t like a massage? And that includes the bovine’s at Whippoorwill Farm in Lakeville CT. Farmer Allen, runs a humane and sustainable farm that is AWA complaint. AWA standing for Animal Welfare Approved, which upholds the highest standards for ethical and humanely run farms that raise livestock for food. Farmer Allen goes the distance when it comes to doling out some extra special comforts, such as, repurposing a used car wash brush as a scratching post for his cows when they become itchy from shedding their hair coats.

During the warmer months, Allen’s often found in the field giving massages to a few choice cows, who lean into him for more, just as my dog Ernie does. It is commonly thought, that livestock raised humanely and with compassion, produce more tender meat, vs their sad counterparts who live a life of stress and despair in factory farms. Considering fresh air, space, and a clean and beautiful environment, are essential to all walks of life.

Even in decay, nature still provides.

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear in decay

As I got off the train yesterday and walked towards my car, my eye was caught by a landscaped area by the bike racks . It contained a large mass of prickly pear that seemed to have met its demise in a brief but dramatic thunderstorm that hit the area a couple of days ago. It was a sad sight, but at the same time, quite beautiful. There was much going on as pill bugs and snails were at the scene, doing their due diligence and taking advantage of the carnage. Nature is efficient, she is resourceful, and she is not wasteful.  She self grooms in these storms, recycling energy back into her intelligent systems that humankind can’t fully comprehend. What can we glean from her wisdom? There are infinite resources in observing nature. How can we learn from this paradigm of decay? In our disposable society, we generate so much toxic waste-soiling of our own nest. If we do not have the discipline and understanding  to make better choices for ourselves and our planet, then we need to cultivate solutions that do not cause further harm, and provide solutions to our damaging ways. Nature, has the answers. We just need to ask the right questions.

I read something once that said “If you can make more money, should you?” And I took that statement further to, “If you could (fill in the blank) should you?” Work harder, choose better, do better. If you can do more good, should you?

Today thousands of people are dying Easter Eggs. The white canvas, being the egg color of choice, as the backdrop to all the permutations and combinations of paas color tablets, glitter, sprinkles, stickers, and little plastic shrink sleeves with little chick and flower designs. Just for one day. You can’t dye the brown organic certified humane eggs, so those remain in the grocers case the week or two prior to the Easter Bunny’s debut. So, should you think “Well it’s just one day, just one egg dying event?” But in thousands of warehouses all over the nation, millions of hens are suffering dismal circumstances, to over produce to meet the demands of this holiday. Along with countless chicks and rabbits, that are used for displays, give aways, and impulsive Easter gifts, only to be abandoned and discarded at the end of the day. If you can choose better, should you? The pale blue/green eggs I chose for dying this year, were certified humane, and although not the optimal choice for a pastel palate of yellow and soft pinks, we turned out a creative display of eggs to our delight. And although they come at a premium price, I paid $2/dozen than the average certified humane brown eggs, the average person thinks nothing of spending $2 – 1/2 the price of a tall coffee at Starbucks. Every time you make a choice, they are cumulative to the person you become, to the energy you send out, to the example that you lead, to the message that you give.

Photograph Magazine

One of 3 deer found at the scene. Mating season, or "the Rut," occurs in autumn, when buck are in high pursuit of a doe.
One of 3 deer found at the scene. Mating season, or “the Rut,” occurs in autumn, when buck are in high pursuit of a doe.

Delighted to be featured in the Jan/Feb. issue of Photograph Magazine, curated by Elisabeth Biondi.

“Linda Kuo believes that nature, despite being disrespected by humankind, holds the answers to our survival. She insists that we should held accountable for its treatment-that good stewardship, rather than dominance, will lead to ecological solutions. Her convictions find expression in her photographs, which tell stories about the vulnerability and marginalization of animals.

In her most recent project, Reclaimed, deer killed in car collisions take center stage. Kuo lives in Westchester, New York, which like many suburban East Coast communities has an abundance of deer. They are perceived as a nuisance, a view she does not entirely share. Once day, coming across a deer killed along the road, she felt compassion for the lifeless body and was compelled to photograph it. While she was photographing in the pouring rain, a Department of Transportation truck came by to pick up the deer. The encounter sparked her curiosity about where they took the animal, and she began to research it. Ulster County, New York, not far from Westchester, enacted a program a few years ago in which the bodies of the deer are removed and turned into fertile compost. as soon as she found out about the program, she embarked on a project of documenting this cycle of animals being reclaimed and returned to nature.

Meticulously photographing each step of this process, Kuo does not shy away from its unsavory aspects, but her images are filled with reverence for the animal and nature. Her pictures are perfectly composed, though Kuo is self-taught, and their beauty derives in part from her instinctual connection with the natural world.

Linda Kuo grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where hers was the only Asian family in their middle class neighborhood. She felt marginalized and defenseless. Later, working in the fashion world, she felt similarly pigeonholed. In her photographic essays, she connects her own personal sense of alienation with the relationship of humans and animals, a thread that she will continue into her next series, about conservation.” – Elisabeth Biondi

GEO Wissen

From the project "Displaced"

From the project “Displaced”

From the project "Displaced"

From the project “Displaced”

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Very happy to be featured in GEO Wissen, featuring images from my project “Displaced.” The feature story focuses on animals undergoing various states of rehabilitation. “Displaced” focuses on exotic pets that receive treatment at the Avian and Exotic Medical Center in NYC, and their experiences at the center.

Sleep

Jennifer and Elmo take a nap in her granny's bed.

Jennifer and Elmo take a nap in her granny’s bed.

I first met Jennifer and Elmo at The Avian and Exotic Medical Center in NYC, while shooting a personal project. Jennifer is an only child, and was raised by her grandparents and her mother. When her grandpa died when she was only 23, and her mother shortly thereafter, Jennifer continued to live with, and take care of her 92 yr. old granny. She originally bought Elmo-an intelligent and engaging Cockatoo that talks, (and says her name in Spanish with a Dominican accent), to keep her granny company when she’s at work. Recently her granny passed away, and Jennifer and Elmo remain in the apartment she grew up in. Elmo likes to take naps, and here they are taking a nap together, in her granny’s bed. From the moment I met them, it was apparent they had a close knit bond.

I entered this image in Alec Soth’s contest for “this ain’t art school.” Alec Soth, in conjunction with Deichtor Hallen of Hamberg, ran a contest with the theme of “sleep” When I came across the contest, this image of Jennifer and Elmo came to mind, and I entered it on the last day. I am fond of it because for me, taking a nap with a beloved pet, is the best nap there is. To indulge in a nap with a pet- hearing them breathe, and snore, is not like taking a nap with a person. There is an understanding, an unspoken bond and connection that is beyond human comprehension.

I just found out that I have won second place, and am overjoyed. I’m overjoyed because of the good natured spirit of the contest, looking at all the entries, and for the love of the theme, which was”Sleep.” Sleep, love, eating. All the most basic of needs, that have deep meaning, ritual, and comfort in all its associations. It was a contest where placing, was akin to my memory of winning my first contest ever, where the prize was a 6 pack of orange crush that I had won by being the 6th caller into a radio station when I was in high school. Of course this contest has much more significance and purpose, but for me, Alex Soth’s work has deep meaning, context, but also many times humor and levity. And it’s humor and levity, that we need most of all.

Alex explained why he chose the images that he did, and for mine, it was Elmo the cockatoo, along with the fact that Jennifer’s curls mimic the telephone cord at the edge of the bed. Her curls and relationship to the cord, his did not occur to me as I was photographing them, but ironically, sometimes my images possess this type of irony after the fact. I find that these artistic coincidences, are really in fact probably not coincidences, but subconscious choices made deep within our psyche. It’s always a marvel, and a revelation.

Elegant End

 

"Elegant End" from the project "Reclaimed"

“Elegant End” from the project “Reclaimed”

Very honored to have been awarded first place for documentary single image for “Elegant End” from The Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary / 10th Julia Margaret Cameron award for female photographers!

I remember every photograph that I’ve taken, and every time I look at one of my images, it instantly takes me back to the circumstance in which I shot it. The power of visual storytelling. I remember the morning I came across this deer as if it were yesterday. I was on my way to an appointment. It was a cool, damp and foggy morning. I was 45 minutes away from my house, and as I approached a curve in the road, I immediately saw this doe laying off to the side of the road, her legs gingerly protruding from underneath the guardrail, and I knew I had to go back. I was not able to stop anywhere along the roadway, and as it was, I didn’t have my camera. Of course. But I was haunted by this image, and after my appointment I drove the 45 minutes back to my home, got my camera, and drove the 45 min. back to the scene, hoping she’d still be there.  It’s a risk to photograph roadkill for any number of reasons. Usually it’s somewhat dangerous pulling to the side of the road, and shooting in the shoulder so close to automobiles zipping by. You’re usually in a position that makes you vulnerable to traffic, and as a driver myself, who has been startled by a runner without reflective gear, a bicyclist without a helmet,  I don’t trust other drivers to be alert to people crossing, riding their bikes, or other pedestrian circumstances.  So, as I’ve been told by a police officer who has confronted me once, my presence on the road is a distraction, and cause for an accident. So, having that in mind, I never have much time to shoot. Within the short window I have to work, I become very present with my situation. Even before I shoot, I usually take a few moments, to just feel my subject. The circumstance.  There isn’t a time where I have photographed a fallen animal by the side of the road, where part of me doesn’t become lost. Saddened by the sudden loss of life, the plight of a sentient being trying to survive. Navigating the roadways in order to search for food, a mate, a nesting or breeding area, only to be taken out so abruptly. As I stood over this doe, her elegant pose, her delicate feminine limbs mimicking those of a woman, the very green leaf. I left with a heavy heart (as I always do,) but feeling that by documenting her in this way–strong, bold yet delicate, somehow keeps her alive and pays homage to what she represents. The fight, the struggle for survival, yet never losing her strength and resiliency, and not forsaking her femininity.