As the global farming industry expands, mankind, suggests New Zealand-based photographer Cally Whitham, has in many ways failed to recognize the inherent dignity and grace that lies within the breasts of farm animals. With Epitaph, she pictures barnyard inhabitants—from pigs to sheep, cows to turkeys—in tender and fanciful portraits, resurrecting the oft-forgotten pathos that ties us to our fellow creatures.
New Zealand, says Whitham, has entrusted its future to domesticated animals since its colonization in the 19th century, when these creatures were the constant helpmates of the people. Although agriculture in New Zealand still flourishes, the photographer registers a shift; where once each being was cherished and remembered, today they have been mass-produced to the point where they are seen as little more than merchandise lost within a crowd of other goods.
Epitaph, as its title suggests, is about what has been lost: the thread that binds us to those who are not human but who capable of joy, fear, and despair all the same. Whitham met her subjects in nearby farms spread across the terrain of rural New Zealand; almost every one of them has since passed away. She has been photographing since childhood, and here, she imbues each animal with an innocence and tenderness that so often eludes us in adulthood. Under wistful gaze, they emerge as if through the haze of a moment’s memory, like forgotten deities, left behind but some cruel twist of fate, but haloed, nonetheless, by light.
All images © Cally Whitham