I made these pictures one afternoon at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. The past couple years, I’ve been working on several projects in museums and zoos and other places where people can see wildlife close-up behind glass. I always find it fun to pretend I’m on a sort of scavenger hunt as a way of being conscious of all the things I want to be photographing. Adding this and other ideas to the mix this trip last fall has really been keeping me on my toes.
The sight of people using their smartphones to experience or “capture” the creatures in front of them becomes completely bizarre once you notice it. What would people 50 years ago have thought of this type of screen-based experience? Particularly with the knowledge that, using today’s technology, you don’t have to go anywhere to see animals on a screen. Why use a screen to separate yourself from wildlife when you’re actually standing before it? (Not to mention, if you can forget what you’ve come to believe looks normal, people look really wacky holding up these little handheld devices to animals behind glass.) I still believe that, even in this age of sharing everything, the majority of photographs made by visitors to places like the Aviary will never even be looked at. My conflicting feelings are definitely what keep me coming back to places like this, and to projects about humans’ interaction with animals and nature.