A Photographer Who Is at Home in the Zoo

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How does a photographer doc an elephant that weighs 40 occasions what she does? For Robin Schwartz, who labored on this weekend’s cowl story for The New York Times Magazine, the method got here naturally. Her reference to animals is innate.

“It’s one thing I used to be born with,” she mentioned.

Ms. Schwartz, who can be a professor of images at William Paterson University in New Jersey, has been working with animals all her life. Indie, her Chinese crested canine, typically sits by her aspect whereas she lectures. Ms. Schwartz was 10 when she first obtained a Kodak Instamatic digicam. She typically dressed her cat in doll garments and took footage of him.

“I thought of him my brother,” she mentioned.

To the quilt story for The Times Magazine, Ms. Schwartz accompanied Charles Siebert, an writer who has written extensively concerning the relationship between people and animals, to a few zoos that had lately obtained elephants from eSwatini (previously Swaziland). The elephants had been “rescued” from big-game park reserves, a narrative that Mr. Siebert found was darker and extra complicated than the plaques on the elephant’s new enclosures made it appear.

Zoos Called It a ‘Rescue.’ But Are the Elephants Really Better Off?July 9, 2019

Ms. Schwartz has made a reputation for herself over the past 30 years as a photographer of individuals and animals world wide. In 2016, she obtained a Guggenheim fellowship to work with rescued animals and their caretakers. She has photographed foxes in Minnesota, let flying fox bats play together with her hair in Australia, and captured folks swimming with pigs within the Bahamas. As a pupil at William Paterson, she photographed roaming packs of feral canine in Brooklyn, Jersey City and Hoboken.

“I’m actually fascinated by that magical relationship between animals and folks,” Ms. Schwartz mentioned.

Ms. Schwartz’s best-known pictures function her daughter, Amelia, in uncanny conditions with animals.

They aren’t cutesy household snapshots. “I used to be type of afraid of Amelia when she was born,” Ms. Schwartz mentioned. “I’d by no means held different folks’s infants. My husband knew the right way to diaper and had babysat; I had by no means taken care of children. I’m not very domesticated. I don’t even prefer to prepare dinner.”

When Amelia was three, Ms. Schwartz’s mom after which a beloved cat died inside a 12 months of one another. Ms. Schwartz felt depressed and stopped taking footage, till she found that capturing pictures of Amelia with their pets was a means of processing that grief. “It gave me a means out,” she mentioned.

Over time, Ms. Schwartz amassed footage of her daughter, now 20, with the animals in each of their lives. She captured her daughter showering with the household cats, resting with monkeys and lemurs, and enjoying with child tigers and elephants.

Credit scoreRobin SchwartzCredit scoreRobin Schwartz

“I don’t discuss to Amelia after I , as a result of the noise issue will throw the animals off,” Ms. Schwartz mentioned. “I watch.”

She typically approaches human topics the identical means.

“I do bodily issues, I tilt my head the place I would like them to look or I take my finger and level to my chin,” Ms. Schwartz mentioned.

“I feel I folks as in the event that they had been animals. I’m extra snug with animals than I’m with folks,” she mentioned.

For this weekend’s journal article, Ms. Schwartz photographed in several environments in three zoos. Sometimes, she shot from far-off on a platform with the vacationers, utilizing an extended lens. Other occasions, similar to on the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kan., she was capable of get nearer to the elephants.

“She understands animals in a really deep means,” mentioned Amy Kellner, affiliate picture editor for the journal. “I needed somebody who would them with an empathetic eye, the identical means that you’d individuals who had been uprooted from their houses.”

In September, Ms. Schwartz’s work from the final twenty years shall be on show in New York through the Photoville exhibition in Brooklyn Bridge Park. She plans to carry her canine.

Credit scoreRobin Schwartz

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