Renowned British photographer
Tim Flach is showing a series of animal portraits at the Retina Scottish International Photography Festival 2015 in Edinburgh. He uses the principles of human portraiture to create a distinctive style that shows his concerns with anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism.
He aims to show how "humans shape animals, and shape their meaning; whether genetically, as with the featherless chicken, or with the symbolism that gives a special significance to a dove but dismisses a London pigeon as a flying rat". His images aim to promote discussion and encourage debate.
Commissions by leading editorial and commercial clients have garnered multiple awards, including three Cannes Lions. He has won the International Photography Award's professional photographer of the year for fine art, and in 2013 was conferred with an honorary doctorate from Norwich University of the Arts, in recognition of his contribution to photography.
Monkey Eyes Tim Flach Flying Mop Tim Flach Sleeping Mop Tim Flach Featherless Chicken: This isn’t a model, and the chicken hasn’t been plucked. This almost 100% featherless (scaleless) chicken draws on the naturally occurring recessive mutation that eliminates feathers and is crossed with one of a favoured strain of broiler chicken. It was a breakthrough in the experimental chicken breeding programme carried out by Professor Avigdor Cahaner at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. It is hoped that the breed that will have considerable economic and possible environmental benefits. As a featherless breed it is more tolerant of heat, and is therefore possible to breed them in hot countries, without the need for expensive cooling systems. The featherless broiler also wastes less energy growing feathers, and so more of the feed is converted into meat. It is odd that we are most familiar with chicken in this bald form, packed ready to cook at the supermarket, but are shocked to see this one, head still attached gazing back at us, whilst prancing across the stage like a plump ballerina. In a virtual sense we have never known animals better than we do now, yet in actuality have never been further apart. Tim Flach Spirit: In many cultures around the world, the dove is recognised as a symbol of peace, hope and beauty. Contrastingly, the pigeon is dismissed as at best a working bird, at worst, a 'flying rat'. This beautiful white bird is in fact a breed of pigeon, or rock dove. The bird in this image stands not only as a symbol of love and harmony, but also as a symbol of the way in which we, as humans, can shape animals, and shape their meaning. Tim Flach Art of Dying Tim Flach Da Vinci Bat: Before it was proven that bats are most closely related to rodents, there was a general belief that bats were closely related to humans and primates. In this photograph, it's not hard to see why. Da Vinci Bat is so titled because of the resemblance it also bears to Leonardo Da Vinci's flying machine. Tim Flach Jambo Tim Flach The panda's status as an Ambassador Species means that if it were to become extinct, the world would feel a huge sense of failure, but the impact on the environment would not be too significant. In comparison, there are many Keystone Species, whose extinction would have a disproportionate effect on their environment, but that are simply not as cute as the panda, and garner less attention. There may be undiscovered endangered bugs that might yet provide the cure for cancer. Tim Flach Ji Li ("Lucky") Tim Flach There are estimated to be just over 3,000 tigers remaining in the wild, and yet 5,000 kept privately in captivity in the USA alone. These are three colour variants of the Bengal tiger. These hybrids are often intentionally bred in captivity as 'theme park attractions', and seldom naturally occur in the wild. In the past, in order to achieve these variations in colour, the animals have been bred with closely related individuals. Thankfully, many zoos have now stopped this practice, having realised that the gene pool was too small. In these photographs, Flach has mapped over a traditionally ‘human’ style of portraiture, taking the animals out of their natural habitat. Shot against a black background, the predators’ gaze penetrates right through you, and you are compelled to stare back. Tim Flach Kanja Shaking Tim Flach Horse Mountain: This image is carefully constructed to be both just abstract, and just recognisable enough to keep the viewer guessing. Modernist architecht Mies van der Rohe’s famous aphorism Less is More is called to mind with the visual simplicity of the image. It says so much by having so little in it; it is just a white shoulder and mane on a black background, yet suggests a detail of a beautiful horse, and at the same time a pristine snow covered mountain. Tim Flach Opera Bat Tim Flach Penny Working the Bracken: This photograph is inspired by traditional landscape painting. It is very deliberately composed to guide the eye in an anticlockwise direction around the image, with carefully placed guides, with areas of light and dark encouraging the viewer's gaze around the picture. Tim Flach Tian Den: This picture is of Tian Tian in his enclosure at the at the National Zoo in Washington DC, but Flach has intentionally utilised the trompe-l'œil mural in the enclosure to great effect. Many people look at this photograph and see Tian Tian is sitting wild, in the Chinese mountains, until the top right hand corner of the image is pointed out to them. Tim Flach
The Retina International Festival, now in its second year, has exhibitions at venues across the city. All are free to enter. See
www.retinafestival.com for more information.