Mary Shannon Johnstone
This week I am featuring a selection of Critical Mass portfolios that were stand-outs in my very subjective opinion. There are numerous others that have already been featured on Lenscratch.
I’m letting you know up front that these are really difficult images to look at. Mary Shannon Johnstone’s series, Breeding Ignorance, calls attention to the euthanasia rate of animals, in this case, cats, at our local animal shelters. I feel this series needs to be seen, not only to draw attention to the subject matter, but for the quality of these difficult photographs.
Mary received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, and is now a tenured Associate Professor of Art at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. Her work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and publications, including the Pause to Begin photography project.
With the euthanasia rate of 90% at our local animal shelters, why are dogs and cats still bought, sold and bred? What happens to these “pure bred” animals if they are not purchased? What is the opposition to spaying and neutering our pets? This photography project takes a closer look at and what happens when our animals mate, and explores the causes and result of breeding and commodifying domestic animals. After adopting two dogs (one from a rescue group and one abandoned), I began to wonder why dogs are still “purchased” at all and started to volunteer at the state-owned animal control facility in North Carolina. I was stunned to learn that they receive over 8,000 animals each year, and can only hold approximately 275 animals at a time. This results in thousands of euthanasias at this facility alone. Equally stunning, I learned many potential owners opposed to the 100% sterilization policy. When asked about these issues, most frequent response of objection is that sterilization and alteration of an animal is inhumane and/or unnatural. There is also objection to the aborting of pet pregnancies. My work with animal control lead me to several independent groups who volunteer their time, money, facilities and talents in working to limit the pet overpopulation crisis. I photographically explored both these government controlled facilities and volunteer groups and have come to two conclusions. First, by failing to spay and neuter our animals we create circumstances where animal cruelty and neglect will not only exist, but triumph. Second, by breeding versus adopting we turn our animals into disposable commodities—pets that can be given away, or literally thrown away, when they don’t look the way we like or when they no longer suit us. This photographic project is my response to those opposed to spaying and neutering. I hope to create awareness about animal overpopulation and promote responsible pet ownership.
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Denis Defibaugh: North by Nuuk, Greenland after KentJuly 15th, 2019
John Sanderson: Carbon CountyJune 24th, 2019
Ira Wagner: Twinhouses of The Great NortheastJune 21st, 2019
Emily Matyas: SOL Y TIERRA / SUN AND EARTHMay 27th, 2019