Other animals

In a stunning series of photographs of creatures, a new book reveals just how far removed we are from the animal world. Giacomo Brunelli’s The Animals is no ordinary collection of wildlife photography…

In a stunning series of photographs of creatures, a new book reveals just how far removed we are from the animal world. Giacomo Brunelli’s The Animals is no ordinary collection of wildlife photography…

Taken in his native Italy, Brunelli’s images in The Animals offer glimpses of familiar creatures – dogs, cats, birds, horses – but they are invariably disarming and unsettling.

Brunelli’s photographs not only look like they have come out of another time (no doubt helped by the fact that they were all taken on a 1968 Miranda Sensomat camera) but they also belie the age and experience of someone who took up photography aged 24 (Brunelli is now 31).

In her introduction to his book, which is published by Dewi Lewis, the curator Alison Nordström refers to critic John Berger’s observation that animals are the quintessential Other and that we look at them to define and discover ourselves.

What emerges from Brunelli’s collection is just that: creatures we think we know, ones that we routinely pet, tame, even house, reveal themselves to be unfamilar, utterly unknowable beings.

It’s unsettling stuff. In one striking image (shown top), a dog reveals a pair of glowing eyes and bright white teeth. But is it a face of aggression, or one of fear? It’s hard to tell. In a different set up, a white dog appears luminescent on a black cobbled street; in another, a horse shakes dust from its mane, offering up an almost human-like pose and expression.

In a more sedate sequence, a snake mimics the shape of a bending plant, while on the following page a dead mouse lies supine, seemingly reaching for the petals on a flower.

It’s clear that, as viewers, we find it difficult to look at these animals without investing something of ourselves in them. The reality is, of course, that they are much less like us that we like to think.

As Nordström puts it, Brunelli’s pictures help us to realise that the barking dog, the jumping cat are “secret and magical” creatures. It’s testament to his skills as a storyteller that Brunelli’s animals convey both the everyday and the mythical.

Dewi Lewis Publishing; £25. More details at dewilewispublishing.com

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