January 25th, 2015
Home For a Rest. Sort of. Not really. Hello, 2015!
It's so good to be home.
It feels like I've been on the road for years, and then I remember that that's because I have. I drew a bear from the medicine cards, telling me that it's ok to hibernate, that its beneficial to go into that metaphoric cave once in a while, to rest and dream. And plan. Oh man, so many plans. As with everything in my life, it's the daunting and exciting plans, the urgency of everything, that propels me forward.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I was talking about being home! I haven't travelled by plane or train since December. The plan had been to do a "look at what happened in 2014!" blog, but I can't discuss much of what I did in 2014 anyway. Such is the nature of investigative work. With some of the situations I document, I have to sit on the photos I've taken for years, while evidence is compiled for a campaign, or while the images are tied up as evidence in criminal cases. It's infuriating, but necessary. I document systemic violence, cruelty and neglect, and so I always want to spew the images all over the internet as soon as I take them, screaming "Look at this! This is an emergency!" at the top of my lungs. Which makes sense, because my work is about the direst of emergencies for millions of individuals. This means I'm too often full of adrenalin and stress, and up at all hours feeling overwhelmed and trying to figure out how to show my work and express myself in a way that engages people in such difficult subject matter. The goal is always to get, and keep, people's attention on this issue of animal abuse, and animal justice.
What a crazy few years. No need to describe all that has happened with travels and The Ghosts in Our Machine
and the We Animals book
, and the palpable excitement around it all, because those details were shared along the way through social media. If you wanted to be along for the ride, you were. An overwhelming number of people have joined and supported me on this journey, both physically and through social media, and I'm tremendously full-up with gratitude for it. I'm thankful for every moment, every person, and every day that I have. Doing this work is a privilege, and in that, I have a responsibility to do my best. And so I'm going to continue to do my very best.
So… what is my very best?
Over the last few years, I've given up most of my regular paying photo work (weddings and events) in order to focus on using that photography skill in the service of animals and humane education. The (huge!) We Animals
archive is made available for free to anyone helping animals. It's a different sort of business model, but it's working so far. I don't make a lot of money, but I don't spend a lot either, and now, there are people making financial contributions to the project, which is whats going to keep We Animals
afloat and ever-growing. A portion of the funds that are given to We Animals
also go right back out into supporting the advocacy efforts of others, via We Animals
prints and books which are donated to fundraisers, exhibits, auctions and events. With these We Animals
donations going back into the community, large and small organizations alike have raised tens of thousands of dollars for their own work for animals. Yay! Everyone wins.
I'm also trying to consume less of everything. We've killed most of the planet. We ravage and waste so thoughtlessly. There are seven billion of us and we kill and eat over 72 billion animals each year. What? Those numbers don't make sense. We are literally eating the world to death
. It must seem undeniable to even the greatest optimist that we've become short-sighted, apathetic gluttons. We all
need to reduce our consumption of everything. Eat less and eat differently, drive less, use less, buy less, waste less. I spend most of my time thinking and reading about our destruction of the planet and about cruelty to animals, and when I'm not reading about it, I'm out documenting it. The rest of my time is spent figuring out a way to change things, and then sharing those hopes in order to inspire others to hope and change, too. We Animals
is about mobilizing people to think, care and live with compassion to others and to the Earth. In the meantime, I'll be consolidating my flying, eschewing many more plastic bottles of orange juice even when I'm thirsty, in favour of a water fountain, and walking more than ever, instead of driving. It's hard to believe that small efforts can make a difference, but there's no other option in my mind. The world is facing an emergency of scale that we simply can't fathom. We need everyone on board, making the small changes so that big ones are possible. It's time for escalation. Are you in?
Speaking of change, if you saw the documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine
, you'll remember that the film depicts (in part) my struggle to get images of animal cruelty into the mainstream. The Ghosts
team filmed a scene with my agency, Redux Pictures
, in New York City, where they agree that while my images are strong, there will be few news outlets that will want to publish them. That scene was filmed over two years ago. Did any of you see that monumental story about animal cruelty on the front page of the New York Times
last week? The nation-wide coverage of the cruelty case at a Quebec fur farm
a few months ago? And the ongoing investigations into cruelty at factory farms, that are being aired on prime time television? Are times changing or what! I've grit my teeth in frustration so many times, seeing editorials ignore and overlook the issue of animal cruelty, but mainstream media is finally wading into dark waters to take a look. The visibility of cruelty to animals, and the question of animal rights, is growing. The images and stories shot for We Animals
are a part of this zeitgeist and are being published more than ever before
, in the likes of Salon, Huffington Post, PDN Online, Canadian Geographic, DAYS Japan, Helsingin Sanomat (Scandinavia's largest newspaper), Earth Island Journal, Photo Life, Outdoor Photography, Elle Canada, Alternatives Journal, and on the covers and within the pages of a number of books as well. The Institute for Critical Animal Studies
also gave We Animals
their "Media of the Year" award (not yet posted on line) which was an honour! We Animals supporters, and the We Animals board members, have encouraged me to actively start asking for support for the project
. They're right. It's time that I ask for help without being shy about it. We Animals
is an important historical archive that needs to continue to grow. I'm documenting a brutally violent period in history, as well as the advocates who are changing this course in history. We Animals helps makes these issues visible, and will inform future generations of what once was, and should never again be. And so, I'm asking for your help! If you'd like to support We Animals by making a donation to the project
, the funds will be put towards:
- investigative work, taking photographs, creating stories
- We Animals humane education programs
- administrative costs
- archive management and syndication
- material costs (cameras, hard drives, investigative equipment, repairs)
- the making of the next two animal advocacy book projects
- travel and insurance costs Any donation is a huge help. We've now included a monthly donation option as well; the Focus on We Animals monthly giving fund.
It's humbling and thrilling that a few people have joined so far.
There are also other ways of contributing. We Animals is a part of the Aeroplan Charitable Giving Program
, which allows people to transfer Aeroplan miles to We Animals
free of charge. This is a truly huge help. You can also buy the We Animals book
for yourself, friends, family and your local library. The 208-page hardcover book is highly educational and sales go back into the We Animals project.
Another way to help is through volunteering and interning. Starting later in 2015, my co-author and I will be looking for help for a massive new project. We can't wait to share the excitement and the details! Thank you to those of you who have reached out thus far about volunteering with We Animals
. I'm looking forward to being able to harness all of this great energy and accept the help that has been offered.
All this talk of support and collaboration ties in with this last bit of news. In 2014 The Pollination Project
granted We Animals
some funding to help create curriculum for the We Animals Humane Education Programs
. I'm collaborating with some really talented educators on this. Kristen Nelson (USA) is creating curriculum for grades 4 to 6. Sangeeta Kumar (Canada) is working on grades 7 to 9. Tayler Staneff (Canada) is working on grades 10-12, and Alex Lockwood (UK) is building curriculum for university levels, focusing specifically on the social sciences and journalism. This will all be available as downloadable pdfs from the Humane Education site, so that the discussions about widening our circle of compassion can continue after I've left the classroom.
I'll be in Scandinavia soon! Four animal advocacy groups have organized a tour which will include We Animals
presentations, book readings and signings, screenings of The Ghosts in Our Machine
with Q&A afterwards, shoots, interviews, speaking with media, and sanctuary visits. The busy schedule is as follows (with the specifics posted on social media):
Sweden, with Djurens Ratt:
(Malmo, Lund and Stockholm)
Finland, with Animalia
: Feb 16th
Estonia, with Loomus
: Feb 23rd
Denmark, with Anima
: Feb 26th
to March 1st
Thanks for reading my news, folks, and for being with me on this journey. I'm only able to do it because I'm not doing it alone. I'm immensely grateful.