“I take the conventions from the fashion world and apply them to the underclass barnyard animal,” Rob MacInnis told The New York Times.
I saw that line and a few pictures and I was hooked. A photographer who wanted to give barnyard animals some love? How could you not get behind a project like that. We got in touch with MacInnis who sent us these shots and told us what drew him to these beloved but often neglected creatures. “I began photographing farm animals because I was interested in using them as a metaphor for the fashion model,” he tells us. “I wanted to draw parallels between literally consuming them, which we do everyday, and the way the photograph ‘consumes' its subject.
“Over the last five years, the project has evolved into more of a critique of photography's role in our society. I've experimented with different genres of photography; fashion, family portraits, documentary, narrative, and panorama, always using farm animals as the subject matter. I wanted to explore more how the camera manipulates its subject and constructs a reality, more than learn anything directly specific about the animals.”
Using a medium-format Hasselblad camera, MacInnis takes both individual portraits of cows, goats, donkeys and horses and group shots which are inspired by Annie Leibovitz star-studded photos as seen in Vanity Fair. “Being around animals on a regular basis, and visiting with different farmers and animal rights activists has resulted in thinking of farm animals not as a section of our society, but as a completely separate society itself,” he says.
How has the photographer's series been received? “Many people are very critical of my work, and find it too ‘cutsie' and see it as pandering to the crowd,” he shares. “However, most people I show my work to like it. I'm happy to say that it's had an overwhelming response from the public, many of whom see more in these photos than just pretty faces.”
Of course, this line of work comes with its own set of challenges. Divas can exist – even in a barn. “Once, a prima donna sheep got fed up with the photo shoot and stormed off the set,” he says. “She was inconsolable and impossible to convince to return.”