In these haunting photos by Canadian photographer Gaston Lacombe, we see animals kept in non-American zoos in conditions that most of us would find inadequate, to say the least. Yet the reality is that many American zoos keep animals in conditions very much like these; many are better, for sure, but many are very similar and some are even worse, even as zoos both in the U.S. and around the world are all changing their message from "entertainment" to "education" and "conservation."
Either way, much of what is happening for the zoo visitor is looking, and much of what is happening for the zoo animal is being looked at, and all that the gaze entails.
From John Berger:
"The zoo cannot but disappoint. The public purpose of zoos is to offer visitors the opportunity of looking at animals. Yet nowhere in the zoo can a stranger encounter the look of an animal."