ELLIOT ROSS
The following is a revised and edited (April, 2019) version of an article I wrote for Le Journal de la Photographie. It appeared there on February 25, 2013.
 
 
Thank God I didn’t know what I was doing.
—William Kentridge

"When I finish a painting, I don't try to interpret what I've done."
—Francis Bacon

 
 

Animal, Other Animals, and Animal Studies are series of photographic images of non-human animals – interpretive observations of other species.

Our 23 year old family cat Sadie died after suffering from several severe illnesses over several years’ time. My wife Ellen and I had kept Sadie alive by forcing medication down her throat, injecting sub-cutaneous fluids into her neck, and in other ways ministering to her failing health. In this way we established the kind of physical intimacy that only caregivers can have with a patient. 

After her death, I was preoccupied with feelings of loss and sadness. But what followed were feelings of puzzlement about human and non-human animal life. 

Vague questions arose. My thoughts and motivations were unclear. Perhaps I wanted to experience the emotional weight of these questions fully, without analysis, without words. Then Ellen pinned an old snapshot of Sadie to a wall in our apartment. It was an extreme close-up of Sadie apparently staring into the camera’s lens — an image amazingly evocative of her living presence.

Seeing the snapshot somehow coalesced with my emotional state, and I began to photograph a variety of non-human animals so I could get to know them – as one can only do through rendering a subject in an artistic medium – then contemplate them again before further refining the images.

Two series have resulted from this process with a third one in production: Animal, Other Animals, and Animal Studies respectively.

Still I feel it's important not to conceptualize this ongoing project. Perhaps I'm trying to avoid the phenomenon known as "verbal overshadowing" wherein the left hemisphere of the human brain, which thinks in words, displaces the product of the right hemisphere, which thinks in pictures—the description that kills the image.