Carly Van Winkel
The practise of bringing wildness in the human domus has been underpinned by impulses not only of fear and control, but also of care and curiosity – by affection as well as domination.”
Kay Anderson, Animal Domestication in Geographic Perspective
In society today we try to keep nature as far away from our living space as possible and feel uncomfortable when even an insect were to intrude that space. We seem to think of nature as something separate to our normal day-to-day lives and it has become a leisurely activity to visit a zoo or park to experience nature first hand. In his article The Grapes Are Sour Anyway, 2009 Daniel Campbell Blight discusses the appearance of natural objects in man-made, built environments. He comments that “as nature and mankind have drifted apart, nature which was once by its very definition natural, has become a spectacle. The appearances of the objects of nature into the built space or environment of the modern city come as a surprise to us.”
I am interested in how we choose to separate ourselves from nature and the feeling of incongruity when nature ‘intrudes’ on our lives. However, more than ever, we are happy to share our homes with dogs. We live so closely with them, allowing them on our furniture, in our beds and even to lick our plates clean. We have begun to personify our dogs by allowing them free range of our homes, dressing them in unnecessary clothes to the extent that the dogs themselves have become a fashion accessory. I am interested in the way we share our living spaces with them and I find it intriguing that we feel comfortable even sharing our beds with these dogs – in some cases very large ones. It therefore seems that we turn a blind eye to the true nature of these animals and to reality that these dogs have the potential to kill us.
For this photographic series I was interested in capturing the oddity of the situation, where the ‘inhabitants’ live together (human and canine), and where the boundaries between the two species are somewhat blurred. This series aims to give the viewer enough information for them to generate assumptions about the type of connection each individual dog has with its owner, why perhaps the owner chose the particular breed of dog to live with and the ways in which both species live together. These interactions are intriguing because they reflect contemporary nature/culture issues within the realm of domesticity.
I found that under close scrutiny of the camera, the shared habitats of the domestic animal and the human have a ‘defamiliarising’ effect. Ultimately I want my images to expose the paradox between our ever-increasing shift from the natural environment, and our decision to live so intimately with a chosen animal. I want to raise questions as to the reasons we feel such a close affiliation with dogs and why we find it necessary to live so closely with them. Maybe it is about care and curiosity – by affection as well as domination but perhaps it is an anomalous way for us to connect with the nature that we are now so detached from.
© Carly Van Winkel