Humans have always had complicated relationships with animals, and we have been prone to reflect upon those relationships since early humans first painted creatures on cave walls. Photographers are no different, and several have created large bodies of work on the subject, from Garry Winogrand’s The Animals, to more contemporary image makers like Amy Stein (Domesticated), Rebecca Norris Webb (The Glass Between Us), Robin Schwartz (Amelia’s World and others), and Annie Marie Musselman (Finding Trust). Chicago-based photographer Colleen Plumb has just joined their ranks with the release of her new monograph Animals Are Outside Today.
Shot over more than a decade in a wide range of both obvious and unexpected locations, Plumb draws a thread between seemingly disparate settings and subjects, illustrating just how intertwined our lives are. Plumb explores our use of animals for entertainment, companionship, food, and work, and how their images populate our consciousness, our rituals, our myths and symbols, and even our corporate branding. As Plumb shows, many of these relationships are defined by contradiction: we are drawn to the wild nature of animals, we admire their beauty and nobility, we anthropomorphize and even worship them, and yet we strive to control them, to restrict them to the roles we prescribe, to keep them in their place—they are always subject to the whims of our attention and neglect.