On April 15, Daytona State University assistant chair of photography and professor Jayanti Seiler and Canadian photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur displayed their work at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts.
The event, entitled “The Company We Keep”, was about the relationships humans have with animals, and it was open to the public. They served pizza, sparkling water, and white wine to the guests. Seiler’s photographs were exhibited on the left wing, and McArthur’s on the right wing.
McArthur wasn’t able to attend the exhibition, but Seiler gave a 30-minute talk entitled “Of One And The Other” starting at 6 p.m.. During it, she discussed that her interest in the complex relations we have with animals, especially wild ones, was originally sparked by her work as a volunteer in wildlife and rescue places. According to Seiler, the duality of the relationships between a lion or a tiger cub and its caregiver is both of admiration and exploitation. The caregivers truly love the animals, but when they grow older they are discarded one way or another.
“I love taking pictures of the lion and tiger cubs because they’re just so incredible and expressive. I’m interested in the dichotomy of having that accessibility that we can get close to them, but it’s also harmful to the animals in a sense,” said Seiler. “I said it in my talk that they’re hybrids. They don’t really belong in captivity but also don’t belong in the wild. So, they’re just really stuck between these two worlds. Humans are stuck too because they are protecting the animals, but they’re actually hurting them.”
All of the photographs displayed were curated by University of Tampa adjunct photography professor Selina Roman. The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts personally invited Roman to work with Seiler and McArthur as she’s a photographer herself.
According to Roman, the process took a little more than two months, and she had to choose between over 50 pictures from Seiler and hundreds from McArthur.
“It was an amazing process, but very difficult because they’re photos, so you have to make some tough decisions about which photograph makes it in and which doesn’t,” said Roman. “I have to think about the story, the narratives that are present when someone looks at them on the wall… keeping in mind their vision and what they are trying to say with the photos, too.”
Naomi Alimario, sophomore pre-nursing major at the UT is taking Roman’s Digital Photography class and attended the exhibition. Some of her favorite pictures were Florence and Cats, White Tiger In Transport Case, and Two Giraffes.
According to Alimario, McArthur’s work seemed a bit biased as it focused more on the bad side of zoos, bullfighting, and the overall exploitative nature of the relationship between humans and animals.
“You can tell in certain pictures that the people with the animals truly care about the ones that they take care of,” said Alimario. “It was really cool to see how she showed both sides.”
Both Seiler and Roman were happy with how the exhibition turned out. Roman added that the only thing she would change about the event would be to have McArthur there, so they could organize a panel discussion between both photographers and have them interact with each other.
Seiler brought her photography book titled Of One And The Other along, and after her talk, she signed copies of it to whoever bought it. According to her, she spent a year going through contact sheets with all of her pictures trying to find the ones that she would include, and then she required the services of a writer to bring it all together.