From passion to mission
Jo-Anne is without a doubt a woman with a mission. In everything she does she puts the focus on our relation with the animals that are close to us, revealing the way we treat them in the food, fashion and entertainment industry, or how we use these animals for research.
Red Fox in a fur farm, Canada, Jo-Anne McArthur
Jo-Anne is considered a representative of a new and emerging genre in photography called animal photojournalism. This form of photography has its roots in photojournalism and conflict photography, as she has to sneak around in order to get the footage she needs, gaining access where she is not always invited. There are reasons
Animal photojournalism differs from wildlife and conservation photography. Although each of these genres convey the difficult circumstances animals live in, they differ in that wildlife and conservation photography focusses primarily on free animals living in the wild, while animal photojournalism gives visibility to animals that are related to people. Another difference is that wild animals in a zoo usually are a no-go for wildlife photographers, but form a starting point for animal photojournalists like Jo-Anne. One could say that where wildlife and conservation photography stops, animal photojournalism begins.
Where wildlife photography stops, animal photojournalism begins, Jo-Anne McArthur
Well composed and well lit images are key to have an impact. Jo-Anne’s preferred style, recognizable as her ‘signature’ in her photos, is approaching her subject as an investigator. Getting down and getting close with a wide angle lens, making sure both the animal as well as the construct it lives in is in the picture.
Getting down and getting close with a wide angle lens, Jo-Anne McArthur
To make sure her work gets coverage she has published a lot of her work through her books. Her choice for publishing books is simple; a book makes a lasting impression compared to the volatile impact of photos on social media. On the other hand social media is necessary to pull attention to the book. So she is active on social media as well.
Her first book We Animals was a compilation of 15 years of work supplemented with a lot of text. The book illustrates and investigates animals in the human environment, and provides valuable lessons about our treatment of animals.
Her second book Captive was a collaboration with the Born Free Foundation and showed us the animals whom we’ve placed in zoos and ourselves as the animals who look at them. The book invites us to reflect on how we observe or ignore one another through the bars, across the moat, or on either side of the glass. With this book Jo-Anne challenges our preconceptions about zoos and aquaria, animal welfare, and just what or who it is we think we see when we face the animal.
Reflect on how we observe one another on either side of the glass, Jo-Anne McArthur
For Jo-Anne, publishing her books is not meant to make a lot money. The profits are used to give away free copies of the books to people who can make a difference, like journalist and CEO’s. But free copies are also handed out to chefs, because what they serve can make a huge difference to animals suffering.
What chefs serve can make a huge difference to animals suffering, Jo-Anne McArthur
The We Animals Media organization
n 2019 Jo-Anne launched We Animals Media, the over-arching not-for-profit organization, to fulfill her heartfelt desire to bring visibility to hidden animals worldwide through compelling photography and film. Photographers, writers, filmmakers, staff and volunteers make up the organization.
As part of We Animals Media, Jo-Anne together with her team build up the We Animals Archive, consisting of over 10.000 images and video of animal industries around the world. The We Animal Archive is a globally accessible stock site, asking fees for commercial use but sharing content free of charge for use by NGO’s and campaigners. By the end of 2021 the goal is to include the work of lots of other photographers with the same mission.
Another time consuming activity is the We Animals humane education program, set up to build bridges of compassion between people and animals through exciting and visually-rich story telling. It brings her as frontline speaker to schools, universities, colleges and clubs worldwide.
Building bridges of compassion through exciting story telling, Jo-Anne McArthur
Asked if she still has time to make some photos, she laughs and admits this is still important to her but there is not much time these days. Running We Animals Media takes up lots of time and energy. Being an activist and photographer at heart, she will, in time, go back to the basics (taking photos, writing, speaking) and let other people lead the organization, which is an exciting prospect to her. Let’s wait and see what the future brings her…
Hope in a burned plantation!, Jo-Anne McArthur
If you want to learn more about Jo-Anne, her passion and what she stands for, attend her performance on the Nature Talks Online Photo Festival!