Artist Spotlight: Janet Holmes

Through a Lens: Our Female Gaze

February 1-February 28

Opening Reception February 8 | Artist Talks February 10

Through a Lens: Our Female Gaze presents six artists who are telling their stories through the photographic lens. Lisa Murzin, Shelagh Howard, Marlene Hilton Moore, Lorraine Parow, Janet Holmes and Lauren Young share a variety of work for this exhibition hailing from different backgrounds, generations and experiences.

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Statement

I have always loved animals, but for many years I was afraid to get involved with animal rescue because I couldn’t imagine how I would deal with the heartbreak. A few years ago, I decided that animals needed me more than I needed to be comfortable, and I began volunteering for animal rescue groups as a photographer and caregiver.
In January 2017, during my volunteer shift at the Wild Bird Fund in New York City, I met a hen who was suffering from severe and chronic reproductive illness. I discovered that her ailments were common for chickens like her. As I learned more about chickens, I discovered a network of vegans (primarily women) who rescue and care for them. I thought about how so many women still struggle to control their own bodies and obtain adequate reproductive health care, and how people in turn are socialized to exploit hens’ reproductive systems. Even across species, it seems that society expects to dictate how females use their own bodies.
And so I began photographing these chickens and their rescuers to pay tribute both to the birds who have suffered so much and the women who invest so much love, time and money caring for them.

How has your photographic process been informed by your experiences

As I spent more time experiencing animals as individuals through the lens of my camera, I began questioning how I could profess to love them yet continue exploiting them for food, clothing and other materials. I committed to become vegan and use photography to advocate for animal liberation.

My values as a vegan influence the subjects I photograph, the materials I use, and how I make photographs. For example, I avoid as much as possible any materials (like gelatin in traditional film and certain papers) that are derived from animals. As part of my photographic process, I sit with my animal subjects, witnessing their existence and importance as individuals, not objects. I invite them to experience me through sight, smell, touch and taste – on their own terms and in their own time. When possible, I photograph them at eye level to emphasize the parity between (human) viewer and subject.

In this series of portraits, I’ve expanded the frame to include animals with their rescuers. My goals are to highlight the deep bond between chickens and their people, pay tribute both to the birds who have suffered so much and the people who have invested so much time, money, love and tears in rescuing and caring for the birds, and encourage viewers to see chickens as sensitive beings worthy of our respect and protection.

50% of the profits from sales of work in this series will be donated to The Microsanctuary Movement’s Hen Reproductive Health Care Fund (www.microsanctuarymovement.org) to help caregivers cover the cost of contraception and other reproductive health care services provided by veterinarians.

 

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