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Animalerie

OCTOBER 22, 2004 – MARCH 11, 2005
ANIMALERIE
SOUTHWESTERN & MEXICAN PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION

Photographs by Jayne Hinds Bidaut

ANIMALERIE is French for ‘animal shop.’ For the three years between 1991 and 1994, American photographer Jayne Hinds Bidaut continuously sought out animaleries and pet shops throughout Europe and North America, quietly witnessing and photographing what she saw. Her meditative, sometimes haunting photographs are at once beautiful works of art and powerful statements. Bidaut’s images of cats and dogs, lizards and snakes, birds, fish, and mice evoke in the viewer an amazing range of emotions, from wonder at the innocence of these small lives to anxiety and foreboding at their caged condition. They draw us into the unsuspected place within the familiar and, like all real art, compel us to experience the depths and ambiguities beneath the surface of everyday life. Jayne Hinds Bidaut, a native Texan, has seen her inventive photography exhibited throughout the world and acquired by prestigious institutions, including the Wittliff Collections, which own over 150 of her photoworks. She specializes in large-format cameras, tintypes, and alternative photographic papers. Jayne Hinds Bidaut: Tintypes was her first monograph, Animalerie is her second.”

—Excerpt based on the book jacket of Animalerie by Jayne Hinds Bidaut,
eighth volume in the Wittliff’s Southwestern & Mexican
Photography Collection Book Series (UT Press, Oct 2004)

 
“. . . Alongside the ‘picturesque’ or ‘beautiful’ qualities we see in Bidaut’s work there resides something disturbing, something, if not violent, at least potentially threatening or threatened. Consider some of her principal subjects: animals in pet shop tanks, cases, and cages; natures mortes of discarded leavings from Parisian street markets—from blemished fruit to a chicken’s head; large horned, thorned, stingered, and mandibled insects; beautiful but often ominous-looking birds; the skeletons of snakes, bats, and men; and voluptuous nudes who sometimes appear with skulls or skeletons, occasionally looking battered and beaten, and who in their lush, draped, and veiled sensuality often look as dangerous as Salome. No other photographer has such an unnerving yet beautiful body of work, and, of course, therein lies much of Bidaut’s genius—and her magic. Like any good magician, she takes us in hand and leads us through mysteries of the eye, confounding us along the way by showing us things we cannot quite believe. Are they sleights of the hand or of the eye, or do we finally recognize they are not sleights at all, not tricks, but real magic? Hers is the magical craft of eye and hand working together, the catching of what her eye saw though the great lens of her five hundred pound camera and her hand making it materialize through light sensitive silver salts onto sheets of anodized aluminum or special photographic papers. . . .

“She describes how she was ‘drawn to pet shops,’ originally in Paris where the series began, and how she was sometimes kicked out of them while trying to make this work. But she feels that she ‘had to do these pictures,’ had to respond critically to the notion of ‘animals as commodities.’ ‘I watched the horrors and dramas of them, of their lives within a container. They would do repetitive things and become like insane patients in hospitals. It’s so tragic. I’d watch everybody in their prison, and most were all dead before I printed their pictures.’ Bidaut says she wants this work to serve as a memorial to them, to the ‘sublime’ thing that they were. She calls what she witnessed and recorded both ‘ignorant’ and ‘horrific’ and makes a point to include each animal’s price as part of the photograph’s title, ‘as if we could put a price on their lives,’ she says. . . .”
 
—Excerpt from “Jayne Hinds Bidaut’s Magic Cabinet”
by poet & photographic historian JOHN WOOD,
from the
book, Animalerie