Please help me complete a photo project to encourage more of us to be mindful of how we treat what we eat.
Have you ever had a moment where you realize you have been lying to yourself? I had one of those moments recently, and it has changed my world forever.
My name is Caroline Schiff, and I am a fashion-lifestyle photographer and an animal lover. Until recently I was a happy omnivore. As Michael Pollan suggests, I ate "real food, mostly plants, not too much". That included meat -- which I bought local and sustainable.
That is, until last year when I visited a farm animal sanctuary in California. There I learned just how badly most farm animals are treated on the way to our tables. You can learn about some of the amazing creatures I met in the video I’ve posted here.
At the farm I realized just how little I was putting my own values into action. It's not about what I choose to buy or don't buy. I need to take some responsibility for my community as a whole.
The experience changed me -- or, really, it reminded me of who I was and who I want to be.
The System Is Broken. We Can Change It
Since then I’ve become increasingly pained about our society's nonchalance towards factory farming. If people knew how badly animals were treated on the way to becoming food, they would make serious changes to their meat-based diets. They would ask – as I’m asking – for the practice of factory farming to be eradicated.
At heart, I know we’re all interested in making a difference – so why is it that we’re willing to put up with such a terrible farm animal system?
Now I have started a photo project that will serve to re-create the experience of a visit to a farm animal sanctuary by telling the stories of some of the animals who were caught in and then rescued from this system.
The Power of Stories
As a professional photographer I know the power of stories to engage us as humans. Stories are how we learn about this journey of life that we’re on.
This project is for everybody. We need to know more about the choices we make when we choose meat as a food source. And we need to end factory farming. It destroys our environment, ignores the sentience and rights of animals, leads to workers' rights abuses, and is terrible for public health.
I'm developing a series of photo portraits of rescued farm animals using real-life stories as a vehicle to bring factory farming out of the shadows where we tend to forget it. Each photo is accompanied by the animal’s story.
For example, a shot of Lucy the Piglet (that's her, above) will be accompanied by a narrative of what her life was like before coming to the sanctuary and why she was rescued. The stories recreate the conditions of factory farming and how we eat through the eyes of the creatures like Lucy that pay the price for our choices.
And while I may not be able to honk like a goose or speak cow, as a professional photographer I know how to capture a glimpse of the spirit of my subject.
I produced the first shoots this spring and summer, You can see some examples in an online gallery I've created. There are more shoots to come. Down the road I will publish a book of the photographs and stories. And I am producing a traveling show to be shown in libraries, schools, community centers – essentially, wherever people may be inspired by this work.
The image collection will also be made available free of charge to help nonprofits and activists in their work. Stories only grow more powerful when they are shared!
Risks and challenges
The challenges of this project thus far have been funds and access. With your help on funding, getting access to these animals may still be difficult
Up until now I have taken on the costs of this project myself. Fellow photographer Heather Hryciw has given openly of her time and her technical skills. In-demand photo retoucher Rebecca Bausher has been polishing the images gratis. My husband Robert is helping me with digital planning and technology. The project has also been awarded a grant from VegFund. Thank you VegFund!
Here's where access becomes an issue. To complete this project I’ll need to make at least three more trips to the rescue facilities that can support this kind of work. Certain animals and their particular stories still need to represented. These include:
* Farm Sanctuary, Orland, CA – Having already shot here once, I’ll be returning to capture portraits of goats rescued from a backyard butcher and a beef industry cow.
* Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY – I plan to travel to the central location of Farm Sanctuary to gather images of a rescued gestation sow, and several “fois gras” geese.
Farm sanctuaries are cautious about allowing people to come in and photograph these animals. They worry about the impact of shoots on animals and they’re concerned with the time these productions take from their every day sanctuary work.
I am highly sympathetic. Up until now I’ve been careful to limit the impact of the photo shoots and in this way I’ve been able to work with several sanctuaries and build working relationships with them. When we shoot, we make minimizing disturbance for the animals and staff the primary concern.
In the end, we have left each shoot with invitations to return and continue the work. And there has been a lot of excitement when the sanctuaries get to see these incredible images of their animal friends.
Rest assured: even without funds this project will continue. I’ve already captured many of the portraits I need without any financial backing at all! But your support will help me get there faster, and I believe this work is more powerful when we are all engaged in it. And, of course, I would love to pay off my photo equipment rental bill! :)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)