Through photography the Yoga Animalia Project aims to present nonhuman animals as individuals, exploring their personalities and the way they experience their world. The Project attempts to bridge the gap between nonhuman animals and the human eyes who view them, focusing on rescued farm animals living in safety at sanctuaries across North America.
All images copyright Cameron O'Steen. All rights reserved.
The project started with my direct interaction with the farmed animals with whom I was fortunate to work at a sanctuary. As I spent more time with them, their personalities started to unfold for me as they showed me ways to better listen and observe. Quirks and peccadillos became more apparent to me; I saw similarities and differences within and outside of species, and their individuality became ever more obvious. My next realization was that I have the opportunity to communicate this growing awareness to my species.
This concept of individuality started to enter strongly into how I discussed my farmed animal friends. Within the animal rights movement it is commonly stated that every one of the many billions of land and sea animals is an individual. This is a challenging concept of which to conceive. The brain cannot easily encompass the magnitude of 60 billion beings with desires and needs being killed each year. It is too big of a number. It is why most campaigns for rights will focus on the suffering of limited individuals, be it human or animal, because the human brain latches onto singular individuals and their stories. Yet even those of us who recite this statement of individuality for our non-human brethren often cannot fully comprehend the depth and breadth of how that individuality is expressed.
Hence the Yoga Animalia Project is my personal exploration of what it truly means that every being is a unique individual. Through their portraits and stories, the momentary connection of a photograph, I hope to impart a sense of the distinct character of the subject. I want it to be very real that every one of the billions of chickens slaughtered for meat in the U.S. had the potential to love sitting in humans' laps like Errol or think we are crazy like Aditi, every calf taken from his or her mother to keep the dairy industry chugging along had the potential to grow to be 6'4" like Houdini or to break hearts like Oreo, every pig killed at six months of age for pork products had the potential to be a drama queen like Christina or a belly rub fanatic like Lulu.
I hope the Yoga Animalia Project moves people toward positive change. I hope it makes a difference for the sanctuaries. I hope it helps the subjects live beyond their physical time and keeps their stories circulating. I hope it helps speak for all the billions whom I cannot photograph. Photographing the farm kids I get to hang out with has already transformed me, now I hope it transforms you as well.