East End Animals
black & white film, 2015
Growing up on the rural East End of Long Island, I have always been surrounded by animals and interested in their interactions with humans. Too often the harsh realities of these human-animal interactions go unnoticed. East End Animals focuses on the impact humans have on farm animals and their environments. When judging how humane a farm’s practices are, I considered many factors, including ethical treatment, the safety of the animals, and the purpose of the farm. I used photography to expose the mistreatment of animals on some farms, as well as to demonstrate some farmers’ and animal rescue organizations’ commitment to treating animals well.
I first visited Spring Farm in Sag Harbor, New York. On this farm, thousands of pheasants are kept in captivity so they can be released for sport shooting. I photographed the birds on this farm, and was horrified by their poor living conditions. I saw dead birds among the living, dirty runoff from the feeding stations that was polluting the environment, and birds trapped inside large netted pens, unable to fly. Aside from a lone farm worker, there wasn’t a human in sight. Not only were the conditions bad, but the farm seemed to lack justifiable purpose. The difference between killing animals for food and raising them to be killed for sport should not be ignored.
I also wanted to shed light on the more positive human-animal interactions that occur on farms and at animal rescue centers nearby. I went to Fairview Farm in Bridgehampton, a family-run farm where animals are raised for meat. I discussed with the owner, Harry Ludlow, and his son Nathan, how they practice humane farming. I documented the work that is done on this farm. I hope to highlight the stark visual difference between these two places through my photographs. At Fairview Farm in Bridgehampton, animals are kept in safe, clean, and comfortable pens and the approach to farming is much more personal. In my photographs you can see how the farmers interact with the animals rather than just warehousing them.
After seeing these two farms, I visited the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, where injured wild animals are cared for. I thought this could be an interesting place to take photographs since it represents one solution to animal mistreatment. Many of the animals at the Rescue Center are there because they’ve been hit by cars or injured by sportsmen. You can see in the interactions between the Rescue Center volunteers and the animals how it is possible to repair the damage caused by human carelessness.