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Tim Flach Presents the Animal as an Individual

April 11th, 2013 No Comments

In his extended and brilliant parable The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells tells the story of a scientist who performs vivisections on animals so as to make human beings out of them; to ‘improve’ the animals.  Tim Flach wants to achieve the same purpose though he certainly does not go as far as did Moreau; he only uses his camera, not a scalpel.  Furthermore, he does not try to humanize the animals; he tries to find and convey superficial similarities between animal and human, or even identify and expose human characteristics that may be inherent in animals.

In More than Human, a book of animal portraits, Flach presents animals in ultra-close-up and in poses somewhat resembling those of humans.  The photo at the top accompanying Stefany Anne Golberg’s article illustrates the point: is the rooster a tightrope walker or cheerleader by occupation?  As for the simian, the pose, lighting, and angle are quite similar to those for a body-building shot!

An 18-image slideshow is available on ABC News and more have been published online on various sites.  

Also compare Flach’s approach with that of Morten Koldby.

Flach’s goal is to bring animals “closer and closer” and that, apparently, is meant in multiple senses of the word: the purely physical and also the covertly artistic.  Some resultant ‘semi macro’ shots detailing animal hides and scales do not go down well with Golberg: her criticism is that many of photographs have been taken from too close and she does not approve of the anonymous setting in which they’re taken.  

That critique, however, tends to overlook the unusual mindset with which these photographs have been taken, a mindset that is revealed in the images themselves: does not this bat look like it’s walking while pulling a cape around itself (and looking shyly at the photographer to boot)?

This type of humanlike (or anthropomorphized, if you will) portrayal goes beyond ‘action photographs’ to almost pure studies.  It doesn’t take imagination to see the quizzical, probing look worn by this owl.  As for this monkey with the pained expression, can you but help wondering what’s happened to his/her hand?

Also, Golberg herself writes that in one of Flach’s images, “A panda bear sits face-front with arms folded, like he is posing for a passport.”  That is the beauty behind these images; to make one think in terms of pandas getting passports made; of animals stepping into the day-to-day affairs of Humankind.

Here’s what Golberg misses.  Flach’s photographs do not portray the animal as a component of nature because that is not his approach or mindset.  Flach’s photographs are about – as odd as this may sound – the animal as an individual.


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