A stunning series of portraits by American photographer Kevin Horan casts barnyard regulars into supermodels, resulting in anthropomorphic images that capture the personalities of these oft-overlooked animals. I showed them to a Jordanian photographer friend – he says he’ll never eat goat tagine again. Look into the faces of these animals and tell me if you share the same reaction.
Professional portraiture of pet dogs, cats and horses is nothing new. Horan wanted to apply the same consideration to working animals. In 2007, the commercial photographer moved from Chicago to a rural island off the coast of Washington state. He noticed some sheep across the street from his Whidbey Island home.“I thought visually they’re very cool and it would be interesting to [shoot] them as portraits,” Horan told Slate, “So I talked to my neighbor and he said, ‘Go ahead, knock yourself out.’ ”
That sheep got her shot at Andy Warhol-presaged fame, and his portrait series Chattel was born.
Said the goat to the horse, why the long face?
In the beginning, Horan also tried shooting horses, but it didn’t work out. “I let the horses go,” Horan told Slate, “It’s the long face. It doesn’t read like a face to me. There is an analogy to human portraiture [in the series], and I just can’t make it work with the horses. People love horses, and I don’t mean to offend them, but I’ve never really gotten them to work.”
Horan brings his equipment to the animals. Sensible, as it’s simpler to transport cameras and lights than livestock, but also because he depends on the ranchers to help with controlling the animals. “It takes more time than they ever dreamed of,” Horan said about the process. It takes time to make the unusual subjects relax. Each was photographed with the same care and attention given to human subjects.
He chose to shoot in black and white, recreating studio portraiture from an earlier time. Cecil Beaton and Richard Avedon would approve.
Horan once drove two hours to take some shots of the majestic Sydney (pictured below, left), who he calls “a star,” but most of the roughly three dozen animals featured in the series were photographed around Whidbey Island.
The series was selected as part of Photolucida’s Critical Mass Top 50 for 2014. Horan continues with his animal photography at the New Moon Farm Goat Rescue in Arlington, Washington, using a portable studio and with specially trained assistants.
The emotive portraits seem to show the unique personality of each animal. After viewing the series, can you look at your dinner options the same omnivorous way?
Horan told Petapixal, “It’s so interesting that these goats and sheep appear to have such strong personalities, emphasis on ‘appear.’ I still wonder how much is in there, and how much is applied through the way they’re photographed, and the way we’re used to looking at photographs. I’ve made countless portraits of humans, and I wonder the same thing about them.”
No goats or sheep were harmed in the project – nor afterwards, as they are used only for milk and wool production. To see more of Horan’s work, and to buy prints, head over to his website – link here.