The Photographer and the Zoo: A Memoir of Mediated Encounters

  • Randy Malamud
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


What kinds of encounters are possible in places entirely structured according to anthropocentric norms and with only minimal regard for the interests of other creatures? The zoo, an institution centered on the human gaze and the satisfaction of human consumptive desires, pushes this question to its extreme, given that the nonhuman creatures involved have been actively transported to and imprisoned in this ostensibly ‘animal-centered’ but in fact violently anthropocentric place. Zoo creatures are, first and foremost, living testimony to the power of humans to remove them from their habitats and put them into places where they do not belong and do not want to be. In this personal essay, the author reflects on his long friendship and collaboration with German photographer Britta Jaschinski, whose photography captures captive animals from zoos around the world, conveying a strong sense of the animals’ out-of-place-ness and the limiting artificiality of their surroundings and living conditions. Her photos point to the ways in which the zoo, rather than being a place that uniquely allows for encounters between human and nonhuman creatures, actually serves as a monument to the impossibility of such encounters—it is a strikingly non-reciprocal, and monological place that forcefully reinscribes, and itself performs, the supposed divide that separates humans from other species.

Works Cited

  1. Baker, Steve. The Postmodern Animal. London: Reaktion, 2000.Google Scholar
  2. Berger, John. About Looking. New York: Vintage, 1980.Google Scholar
  3. Malamud, Randy. “Dark,” Five Points 12, no. 1 (2008), 73–83.Google Scholar
  4. “Looking at Animals,” Island 117 (Winter 2009), 17–24.Google Scholar
  5. “Prologue: Animals,” The Animals Reader, eds. Linda Kalof and Amy Fitzgerald, ix–xi. Oxford: Berg, 2007.Google Scholar
  6. “Spotlight: Britta Jaschinski,” B&W 20 (August 2002): 98–101.Google Scholar
  7. “Wild Things: Teaching Us to See ‘Invisible’ Animals,” Release, Summer 2004, cover and 10–11; Five Points 8, no. 3 (2004), 72–80.Google Scholar
  8. “Zoo Stories: An Unauthorised History of the Zoo,” Mouth to Mouth 1, no. 1 (July 2001): 98–105.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randy Malamud
    • 1
  1. 1.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations