Several years ago, I saw the work Uniform by Lisa Strömbeck, based in Copenhagen, Denmark and Borrby, Sweden, when it appeared on Feature Shoot. The photos are funny – they show dogs, cats, and rabbits up close in the laps of people donned in fur of the same color and texture, the humans and non-humans morphing into one mass with eyes, tongues, and fleshy hands. I made a note of the series and meant to feature it someday, but hadn’t gotten to it yet. At the Living With Animals conference at Eastern Kentucky University in March, I was fortunate enough to see a wonderful presentation by and meet Lisa, and get to know another project of hers, In Bed. Depicting dogs and humans together in the intimate space of the bed, the images embody the comfort and security of being cuddled close to the body of a living, breathing creature, one that will never criticize or judge or abandon. There’s something about that contact with another mammal, in a place meant for rest and often closeness with another, that provides such calm and security.
From Strömbeck’s statement: “In 2009, Meg Daley Olmert published the book Made for Each Other – the Biology of the Human-Animal Bond, a book that described in depth the bond between man and animal. With the aid of the latest research findings within the fields of neuroscience, zoology and anthropology, she describes, among other things, the neuro-chemical processes that reinforce the bond between man and animal. She explains, for example, that when we pet our dog, the production of the hormone oxytocin increases in a manner identical to when a mother holds her baby. Furthermore, body contact between humans and other mammals also accelerates the healing of wounds, stabilizes the blood pressure, lowers the level of stress hormones and alleviates both physical and mental pain.
There are several reasons why I have chosen to describe the physical contact between animal and man, specifically while in bed. Rest as a phenomenon has been of special interest to me for many years. It can be hard to achieve and a resting animal or human is quite beautiful, so enveloped in themselves as they sleep. The bed is also the calmest place in a home, as well as the most intimate, and hence, being granted access to photograph there has been interesting for me.”
All images © Lisa Strömbeck