Artist Statement

More Than Human

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In his collection More Than Human published in 2012, Flach makes a photographic exploration of animal species ranging from mammals to marine creatures to insects. By removing the creatures from their natural environments, and shooting in a minimal studio setting, the images take on a curiously ‘portrait-like’ appearance, usually distinct to humans. These images explore the idiosyncrasies of particular creatures as well as pertinent ethical, political, cultural and scientific issues surrounding the relationships between human and non human animals.

Opera Bat

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Good Bat/Bad Bat

Generally, humans will tend to be used to seeing eyes above feet. This photograph plays with our habits of perception, by turning the bats on their heads the bats are anthropomorphised, making them seem both more and less normal at the same time. This switch might also call into question our perception of life, and ask, like Nagel, What is it Like to be a Bat?

Bats have inspired many stories throughout the world, and through history. From South American folklore tales of Vampire Bats, to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and DC Comics’ Batman, bats’ mysterious qualities and certain bats’ bloodsucking habits have inspired some fascinating characters. Their use of echolocation has also inspired technology that has been used in warfare.

Spirit

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Rock pigeon/Dove

In many cultures around the world, the dove is recognised as a symbol of peace, hope and beauty. Contrastingly, the pigeon is dismissed as at best a working bird, at worst, a ‘flying rat. This beautiful white bird is in fact a breed of pigeon, or rock dove. The bird in this image stands not only as a symbol of love and harmony, but also as a symbol of the way in which we, as humans, can shape animals, and shape their meaning.

Comb jellyfish

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Alien Invaders

It is often the little things in life that count the most. If the tiny plankton that feed the small creatures in the sea disappear, then the larger fish that feed off them will disappear, and so forth. Somewhere along the line, fishermen find their nets coming up empty. And that is what happened when this, the comb jellyfish, found its way to the Black Sea from the Atlantic in the 1980s. This alien like invasive species caused mass devastation of the Black Sea’s native anchovy shoals, and was most likely caused by human interaction. It is suspected that the jellyfish was sucked up into ships’ ballasts and then released into new waters.

Capuchin Monkey

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Rupee

The Capuchin monkey is so named, after Christian monks of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, for their similarity to the monks in their brown hooded robes. Here, Rupee appears to be texting.This might seem unlikely, but this human-like activity is actually less crazy than it seems. In an experiment conducted by Keith Chen at Yale University, six capuchin monkeys were required to buy food treats using tokens. They quickly demonstrated an understanding of pricing and budgeting and a desire to snap up a bargain! One unintended demonstration of how money-savvy capuchins could become was when one was spotted apparently trading a token for sex. The recipient then used the proceeds to buy a grape.

Tiger Breeding Series

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Royal White, Golden Tabby, Snow White

There are estimated to be just over 3000 tigers remaining in the wild, and yet 5000 kept privately in captivity in the USA alone. These are three colour variants of the Bengal tiger. These hybrids are often intentionally bred in captivity as ‘theme park attractions’, and seldom naturally occur in the wild. In the past, in order to achieve these variations in colour, the animals have been bred with closely related individuals. Thankfully, many zoos have now stopped this practice, having realised that the gene pool was too small.

In these photographs, Flach has mapped over a traditionally ‘human’ style of portraiture, taking the animals out of their natural habitat. Shot against a black background, the predators’ gaze penetrates right through you, and you are compelled to stare back.

Featherless Chicken

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Domestic Chicken

This isn’t a model, and the chicken hasn’t been plucked! This almost 100% featherless (scaleless) chicken draws on on the naturally occurring recessive mutation that eliminates feathers and is crossed with one of a favoured strain of broiler chicken. It was a breakthrough in the experimental chicken breeding programme carried out by Professor Avigdor Cahaner at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. It is hoped that the breed that will have considerable economic and possible environmental benefits. As a featherless breed it is more tolerant of heat, and is therefore possible to breed them in hot countries, without the need for expensive cooling systems. The featherless broiler also wastes less energy growing feathers, and so more of the feed is converted into meat.

It is odd that we are most familiar with chicken in this bald form, packed ready to cook at the supermarket, but are shocked to see this one, head still attached gazing back at us, whilst prancing across the stage like a plump ballerina. In a virtual sense we have never known animals better than we do now, yet in actuality have never been further apart.

Chimpanzee

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Jambo

Jambo was born in 1982, and has spent most of his life almost completely bald. He has alopecia, a hair loss condition that humans can also suffer from. And unlike in humans, his alopecia doesn’t seem lead to ostracism from others within the group. Despite this condition, he is still the dominant male in his troop.

Giant Panda

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Ya Yun and Ji Li

The only thing that is black and white about the panda is it’s colour. Ya Yun and Ji Li are pandas from the Chengdu Research Base in China, where they have successfully bred 120 giant pandas from just six that were rescued in 1987.

You might well have never seen the back of a panda before, but you immediately recognise that’s what this is! The panda is what is known as an Ambassador Species; it is a symbol, both literal and metaphorical, of environmental concerns, and is recognised the world over. It’s status as an Ambassador Species means that if it were to become extinct, the world would feel a huge sense of failure, but the impact on the environment would not be too significant. In comparison, there are many Keystone Species – species whose extinction would have a disproportionate effect on their environment – that are simply not as cute as the panda, and garner less attention. There may be undiscovered endangered bugs that might yet provide the cure for cancer…