Fauna & Flora is a research platform dedicated to animals and plants in photography. It has been developed by João Bento since 2012.
The Origin of Fauna & Flora
15 May 2012 . By João Bento
In 2007 I moved to Newport in South Wales to begin a photography course.
In Newport, I went to live in a house where one of the residents was a pet dog. Her name was Izzy, a black Labrador. She was kind and outgoing. Later that year I moved to a new home where I had the company of two Jack Russells. One of them, George, was stubborn and aggressive. On one occasion he bit my foot. Why?
I did not know much about dog behaviour. Until I moved to Wales I had never lived with dogs. Where I come from in Portugal, most dogs live on the streets in a semi-wild state while a fair number of dogs live close to humans as working animals. Only a few live as companions as part of people’s domestic lives. In the UK the situation is completely different. In Wales, according to the Blue Cross, one third of the population has a dog as a pet. Wow!
Then I came across a poem that shed some light on my recent experience:
French-kissing my dog melts my troubles away
As if dog spelled backwards has something to say
What works for me will work for you
Get rid of the zanax and prozac too.
Why pay the therapist all that dough?
When it’s the magical doggies we really owe.
(Excerpt from ‘I French Kiss my Dog’ by Gail Glassman. In ‘Urban Dog’, 2004)
After that I stopped seeing dogs exclusively as working animals. They could be something more. A best friend, an occasional companion. Clearly, George wasn’t a good companion. Or maybe he was but I didn’t understand him.
In my photography course I changed my attention to the subject of animals. I discovered the work of other animal photographers: Keith Arnatt’s ‘Walking the Dog’, a project about dog walkers!; ‘Grounded’ by Helen Sear, where animals’ backs are shown as fantastic landscapes; ‘Familiar British Wildlife’ by Clive Landen, which looks at road-kill and urban development in the UK; Jo Longhurst’s ‘The Refusal’, a project that looks at our quest for perfection and our intrinsic bond with animals.
In recent years there has been a growing interest in the animal world as a primary photographic subject. Some projects of undisputed quality have acquired international recognition, like ‘The Hyena and Other Men’ by Pieter Hugo in 2005 and, more recently, ‘Paloma al aire’ from Ricardo Cases in 2011.
Fauna & Flora brings together all of these recent experiences, from the feisty Jack Russell to Ricardo Cases’ project. Fauna & Flora is a research platform where I will be showing projects covering a range of photographic styles and presenting work that deals with different animal issues. I want to widen the discussion about animals in photography, in order to improve our understanding of the animal world and, ultimately, to support a positive change in our own lives and the lives of other creatures.
By developing this project I can clearly say that I feel myself a better animal.