I was struck by how zoo-goers enjoyed displaying fear, especially of reptiles, arachnids, and the large carnivores. Threats from animals, now dimly remembered and completely irrelevant, served as entertaining titillation. Shrieks and shudders united groups in shared emotions that could be savored and laughed at later, as after riding a roller coaster or making it through the neighborhood Halloween haunted house.
After making the prints I read John Berger's Why Look at Animals and was surprised to find that he used one of the words I did, the word SPECTACLE. For instance, he wrote: "The animals of the mind, instead of being dispersed, have been co-opted into other categories so that the category animal has lost its central importance. Mostly they have been co-opted into the family and into the spectacle." When I combined the word with a picture of a hippo, I was thinking of the tendency to anthropomorphize hippos as silly, entertaining fatties, ignoring their true nature.
Berger nails the tragedy of zoos: "However you look at these animals, even if the animal is up against the bars, less than a foot from you, looking outwards in the public direction, you are looking at something that has been rendered absolutely marginal..."
photos by Bill Deere