Woman Crush Wednesday: Carol Erb
Interview by Jiaqi Zhang
Like many people, I grew up with a fascination for animals. Storybooks, cartoons, puppet shows; our culture fosters the whimsical fantasy that animals are our friends. The truth is much darker. Animals are commodities that we use for food, clothing, labor, and entertainment. The Old Testament gave man a pretext for using animals to suit his needs. Modern civilization developed in ways to shield us from the cruelty and neglect with which we treat our fellow creatures. Today, attitudes are changing, due in large part to the long campaign of animal welfare groups that have worked to expose and question our exploitation of animals.
In each of my images, an animal has been removed from its natural environment and placed in a human space where it does not belong. The longing to be elsewhere is clear from the animal’s confinement and expression. Faded murals allude to a history of domestication and the way we can often fool ourselves into thinking of animals as extensions of our own needs and emotions. These animals are not at home here. Nonetheless, there is a disturbing beauty in their isolation.
How did you come up with your project "Dominion" and what is your inspiration?
Dominion grew out of my own inner conflicts about animal welfare. Ideally, we would treat all animals under our control with care and compassion. In practice, that is something that is difficult to achieve. My animals are shown in human spaces, some are isolated, others appear to be lost. I’ve tried to marry a sense of whimsy with an overall sadness. My goal is to draw the viewer into the scene, and elicit a feeling of sympathy for these beautiful creatures.
Your photos are very imaginative, could you also talk about your post-production process?
My background is in painting and drawing, so my approach to photography is very much about creating an image, rather than capturing something as it appears through the lens. I shoot all my own photographic material and construct my images on my computer with Photoshop.
I found that each room shown in the images is decorated differently, could you tell me why you chose those scenes?
It began with imitating zoo exhibits. Animal enclosures are often decorated with representations of their natural habitats. These landscapes are usually faded and poorly executed. Obviously, these crude representations are for our benefit. Most zoo animals were born in captivity, and have never seen their natural environments. As the project evolved, I began to experiment with non-literal backdrops.
Is there a message you want viewers to take away from the images?
I want people to think about how our we treat animals in our care. Small choices add up. We have come a long way in the last few decades, but we need to do more.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach a one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
European History. I’m fascinated by the period between the fall of Rome and the early Renaissance.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Great characters, wonderful script, and incredible acting.
What is the most played song in your music library?
Radiohead’s Karma Police. I never get tired of listening to it.
How do you take your coffee?
I stopped drinking coffee about 10 years ago. Now I drink a cup of warm milk every morning. It is a very soothing way to start the day.
For more photos please visit Carol's website.