Friday, May 2, 2014

Human Like Me

While pet portraits seem to be everywhere we turn, they aren’t a recent phenomenon, in fact, one of the earliest animal portraits date back to 15,000 BC where bison and other animal paintings were carved in Lascaux caves in France.

In contemporary time, thanks to social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube, pet portraits circulate through society like lightening. Within a few seconds a proud pet parent can snap a picture of their beloved pooch with their mobile phone and upload it to several social media outlets for friends and family to enjoy. Sometimes those portraits or videos go viral and become a cult favorite like The Disapproving Rabbits, Colonel Meow (Colonel Meow recently passed away this past January, RIP), or I am sure everyone’s favorite, Talking Dog. In addition to pet portraits floating around the Internet, many have framed pictures at home and at work to celebrate their love for their pet. In fact, here’s the picture I have on my work desk.


So what makes us want to watch hours of cat videos or why do we have more pictures of Fido on our phone than of friends or our Mom? What makes us say “oh how cute!” when the neighbor shows us the latest picture of her bunny? What is the unspoken connection that we have with our pets that we can’t quite put our finger on?

Could it be anthropomorphism? Do we project human emotions onto our cherished pets? Do our pets really feel guilt, loneliness, or jealousy? Photographer Maija Astikainen is exploring this exact possibility through her portrait series, One-Dog Policy which started in 2010 and is an ongoing project. 

When you scroll through the portraits, ask yourself what emotions you see upon these pups’ faces. Do you see a Bulldog lamenting his upcoming bath? Do you see a depressed Greyhound on the sofa yearning for her pet parent to return home? Do you see a guilty dog peering from behind a white dining table; did he eat the baked chicken that was sitting there minutes ago?

Regardless if you see the same emotions as I did in these portraits or believe that's its only anthropomorphism, you cannot deny that there is a powerful bond between people and their pets, one that is almost magical and certainly timeless.

To see Maija Astikainen’s portrait series- click here and feel free to comment on your thoughts below.

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