Our relationship with the natural environment has always been a fragile one and this is best exemplified by our need to encage and exhibit animals in zoos. On the one hand, zoos offer a valid opportunity for education for the young to learn about the animals they cannot see and yet their future actions serve to protect. By seeing these animals in the flesh it helps people relate to the animals they hear about in the wild facing extinction unless they adapt their consumption. On the other hand holding any animal captive, including the process of breeding them for captivity surely cannot be argued to be anything but morally corrupt.
Dalian Forest Zoo in North East China exemplifies the various trends in zoos all within one enclosure. It is at once both a look at what western zoos were like in the past with tiny, concrete enclosures and also a view of a more modern system with more spacious enclosures for the savannah animals.
The portraits of the animals of Dalian Forest Zoo presented in this project depict not only the physical and mental situation of the zoo’s inhabitants but also allude to how the Chinese people are embracing the rapid transformation of their country. Importantly the work also addresses my own feelings of isolation living in a country as foreign as China for someone of British origin. This isolation I felt on an individual level is very similar to how the Chinese as a population feel as a country that only within the past 30 years since the end of the cultural revolution is starting to find its own voice in the world.