member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Than Human

This photo, and all others in this post, by Tim Flach.

I discovered a wonderful website today, that of photographer Tim Flach. The entrance page is fantastic, and makes me jealous :)

Please visit the site, as the photos are not large enough here to do them any kind of justice. Also, I'm having a hard time picking which ones to show here... Please click on them for better resolution, at least.

His page is loaded with high-quality images of wondrous portraits of animals--portraits in the sense that each image is loaded with character, shows the artistic eye of the photographer, and displays the grand majesty of the particular emissary of the animal kingdom who is his subject. Details, poses, expressions will all surprise you. And there's a new book from these images, More Than Human, as well as two other of his books, one focusing on dogs and the other on horses.

In an interview with John Parker for the Economist (Summer 2010), Tim Flach stated, “I like to use photography as a way of extending people’s experiences;" he uses a glass floor, the method we see on the entrance page to his website, or x-ray photos of gestating horses, or underwater photos in order to shift our perspective, and he often focuses very tightly on a detail like the neck, the feet, a rush of hair or fur, or as below, an eye:

About the above photo, John Parker notes: "“If you look closely above the Shar-Pei’s right eye, threading finely through the heavy folds of the eyebrow is a tiny white stitch. It is there because the thick bristled skin, bred into this fighting dog as a defence against opponents’ bites, would otherwise push the eyelid inward, scraping the eyelashes over the cornea and producing an infection called entropion. The picture is both an abstract conception and a stark image of what humans do to their pets.”

Flach notes that his study on dogs was an exercise in metaphor, "how we engage with nature." And he went all over the world to follow human interactions with dogs, following sled teams and dog shows and learning about how eye-contact between canines and humans has changed through domesticity, about plastic surgeries that pets are often subjected to, and about the ideas that guide cloning and breeding. He learned through the studies of neuroscientist Morten Kringelbach what may have guided breeders in their selections for lapdogs; Kringelbach feels we are "hard-wired to respond to round faces with big eyes and snub noses," because of the similarity of those shapes to the faces of our own infants; Flach's own lapdog portraits often zoom in on that face to trigger the effect:

Bichon Frise Lapdog (Tim Flach, photographer)

(Below) Form and Function: The peculiar clip poodles wear, which exposes the legs, face and most of the body, dates back to their days as swimming retrievers. They were shaved for ease of swimming, but pompoms were left to protect the chest and extremities. The above pose amongst topiaries seems ideal...

Flach says, “I don’t think making a pretty picture is enough...My interest has moved from just the aesthetic to this idea that photography is a form of evidence, a way of raising questions. What is the significance? What is the context? I’m fascinated by how understanding can transform the meaning. I think you’ve got to be interested in a lot of potential meanings that come from an image.”

“If I take the subject matter of my bats, the series where the image is turned upside down, then I think people are surprised to find how easily they engage with a perceived ‘personality’ in the bat through the turned-around image. At one level it is a simple trick, but it transforms the experience.”

He wants to build on the idea expressed by Bill Brandt: “It is part of the photographer’s job to see more intensely than most people do. He must have and keep in him something of the receptiveness of the child who looks at the world for the first time or of the traveller who enters a strange country.” He clearly succeeds.

Discovered via BrainPickings.


  1. I forgot to mention: If you are lucky enough to be close to London, the works from More Than Human are showing now at Osbourne Samuel.

  2. Tim Flach's photography is incredible, predictably I particularly like his photographs of horses!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing the amazing photos of the amazing creatures!! I really really enjoyed this post (you know me!) "I think you’ve got to be interested in a lot of potential meanings that come from an image.”I realized that I'd been fairly tied down by old notions.

  4. Well he's a simply wonderful photographer. The horses at his site had my jaw dropping!

  5. c'est la deuxième fois .. son site ..est incroyable!

  6. Ahh just stunning - the bats I could gaze upon all day, they remind me of the sort of gents you might encounter mixed up in a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

    We have two species currently visiting our flowering gum trees - I love to watch them fly in at dusk, hear their squabbles as they clumsily land upon one another and their intermittent chatter - I can only think they are vocalising their delight at the sweetness of the blooms that have attracted them to do a little night time pollinating.

  7. Oh, these are wonderful! Great find.

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