A new exhibition titled “Animalia” at Open Shutter Gallery showcases black-and-white images of domestic and exotic animals by photographer Nine Francois. Francois’ photographs present abstracted views and strange perspectives of the creatures, capturing their essences with grace and humor. The show will be up through July 13. We asked Francois a few questions about her photos.
Are the animals in the series stuffed or real? How do you find them?All of the animals are not only alive but within very close proximity without anything between us (no fences, bars, etc.). These are the conditions I need to get the look I want. They are also what makes it very difficult to find my subjects. Sometimes I am approached by sanctuaries, sometimes I find an animal rescue that will work with me, but mostly, I rely heavily on word-of-mouth to find my animals.
All the creatures are on a uniform white background. How do you achieve this aesthetic?While the photos look like it’s a studio shoot with a white background, they are all shot outside against the sky. I am photographing this series on old fashioned black and white film, and there are exposure and development processes you can do with film that stretch the contrast level. I’ve come up with a formula that turns the sky white.
What is the meaning behind this series for you?This series works for me on several levels. Aesthetically, I want the viewer to have a connective experience seeing these animals. I want them to fall in love with, be awed by and sense the power of these magnificent creatures. This I get by getting so close when I photograph. For me, there is also a link between animals and the development of language. I watched my kids learn to speak and write in two languages using animal imagery. Things like alphabet books, flash cards and stuffed bears with whom to share secret conversations, all employ animals to help children verbalize, construct sentences and learn to read. To reference this connection, I use a square format and a minimalist composition with the dark figure against a white background, all of which echoes wood alphabet blocks or flash cards. When you see a sequence of the animals from a little distance, the succession of dark shapes suggest the ebb and flow of script or a visual rendition of phonics. I like the idea that these images can work both up close and at a distance.