Dissertation – First draft of chapter 2: Creative responses to the issues of animal captivity and exploitation

by rnb10

Creative responses to the issues of animal captivity and exploitation

Many artists and individuals use all types of mediums to fight for and against the animal exploitation trade, with one of the most effective practices being photography. Simply capturing the animals in the secluded environment is enough to paint a picture of their suffering.

Daniel Kukla ‘Captive Landscapes’ project shows that you do not always need to see the animals in the captive environment to feel their pain, in fact their emotions and wellbeing can reflect on the surroundings once they have left it behind. The enclosure somehow mirrors what has happened in the past, a unhealthy spectacle.

This piece of work is made up of a collection of images taken from various enclosures in zoo’s all around the world, it reflects on the fact that animal exploitation is wide spread and not only confined to certain parts of the world. He displays what no artist has before, he thinks outside of the box.


We, as humans, go to great lengths to satisfy our desire for a connection with the natural world, especially in our interactions with wild and exotic animals. Zoos are the primary site for this relationship, but they often obscure the conflicts inherent in maintaining and displaying captive wild animals. In this series, I photographed the interiors of animal enclosures at 12 different zoos across the U.S and Europe. These images invite the viewer to question the role of these constructed habitats, and explore the motivations behind collecting, preserving, and controlling the natural world.” (Daniel Kukla)

Daniel explains how although zoo’s are seen as educational purpose, they do not reflect the animals environment instead they conflict with the realistic view. They are artificial and only created for our own pleasure.

Another artist trying to highlight the negative effects of captivity is Gaston Lacombe, his project ‘Captive’ captures the animals in the enclosures and manages to anthropomorphizing the creature as though it is a human being in a cell. Each image is different to the last and has its own unique story.

Lacombe’s images do not just show run down zoo’s but he also points out that the most expensive and high profile zoo’s still have unhappy and unhealthy animals held up in enclosures that are of a minute size.


I have been gathering pictures from zoos all around for the last three years. I like most zoos — I really do. Some zoos need to be congratulated for making great efforts at conserving endangered species, providing shelter to animals who could not otherwise survive and educating the public on ecological issues.

However, even in the best zoos, there are animals that are stuck in cement enclosures too small for their needs, or in rooms where the only vegetation they see are the plants painted on the wall. I’ve seen animals living in cages where they cannot even sit up, or have no access to daylight or clean water. At these moments, I feel guilty for supporting a system that treats animals cruelly, and at these moments, I take pictures.”

Gaston has a different outlook to Daniel Kukla, he accounts back to his many visits to zoo’s, in fact congratulates some enclosures on there efforts although he refers back to the cages being too small and not fulfilling for the animals needs. Which reiterates the fact that wild animals should not be in captivity.