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Henry Horenstein

October 16, 2015 – February 6, 2016

Artist Lecture, Book Signing, and Reception: Friday, February 5, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Brown Sea Nettles
Brown Sea Nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens) by Henry Horenstein

“The combination of the scientific and the metaphorical, the artistic and the analytical in these images is what accounts for their extraordinary power.”
– Elizabeth Werby, Executive Director, Harvard Museum of Natural History


Animalia is a body of work by noted photographer Henry Horenstein in which he presents elegant and engaging representations of an eclectic mix of land animals and sea creatures, emphasizing their unique qualities and characteristics through his evocative and mysterious images. This body of work was created between 1995 and 2001, culled from images taken at various zoos and aquariums.

Excerpt from the forward to Henry Horenstein’s book Animalia (Pond Press, 2008) by Elizabeth Werby, Executive Director, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Cambridge, MA

“Horenstein’s creatures are decontextualized. They appear without the backdrop of the natural landscape, outside even the artificial world of the zoo or aquarium, and devoid of their true color. As a consequence, the images are truly arresting; and in both a literal and metaphorical sense, we see these animals as we have never seen them before. We notice details, and Horenstein focuses our vision on the unexpected: the foot of an elephant, the eye of an octopus, the hair on the back of a gibbon’s head, the pattern of feathers on a bird’s neck. He plays with scale: the rear end and tail of a rhinoceros occupy the entire picture of the frame. We see these as if through a magnifying glass. His pictures challenge us to look more closely, to ask questions and make connections. We think about form and function: the relationship between an elephant’s foot, a horse’s hoof, and our own toes. We ponder modes of sensing and communication: The signals that hold together a school of fish. Examining these photographs, we become scientists and discoverers."
Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) by Henry Horenstein


I am a photographer, not a naturalist. My teachers were legendary artists Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Minor White. What they taught me was the value of traditional artistic concerns, such as good composition, interesting light, and compelling subject matter. The photographs shown here were made from 1995-2001. When I started this series, I was a bit insecure. So many great (and not so great) artists had tackled such subjects since the beginning of time. How could I add to this daunting history. One thing I did not want to do was simply document my animals, so I chose not to shoot in color and not to show their environment. Rather, I choose to look closely and abstractly—to see my subjects for their inherent beauty, oddness, mystery. For this, I shot often with macro lenses, so I could get close, and worked with grainy, black-and-white films, printed in sepia, hoping to give them an old school, timeless feel. I worked in zoos and aquariums, not in the wild or underwater. This meant I could almost always find my subjects; they couldn't get too far away. The other advantage was that I could isolate and freeze them in a constrained space, almost as though they were models, posing for me in a studio. Photographing animals is very different from photographing people. You can't tell an elephant where to stand, and you can´t ask a skate to smile or a lizard to say "cheese." Instead, you must be very patient and wait, hoping your subject will do what you want it to do, or maybe something else unexpected that might make a good picture. When animals do cooperate, you have to be ready, because most won't stay in one position long. You have only a few seconds, and often less, to get your shot. As I watch and wait, I listen to other zoo visitors discuss the animals in human terms. "Look at that," they say, "he's smiling at us". Or, "Poor thing, she's bored." Or, "Doesn't that monkey look like Uncle Ike?" In some ways animals do resemble humans, no doubt. After all, they are our forebearers. Still, I believe animals are their very own creatures, with unique, often surprising and altogether amazing characteristics. And that's what I've tried to capture in these pictures.


Henry Horenstein is author of over thirty books and monographs published by Viking, Chronicle, powerHouse, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, and Pond Press, including Honky Tonk, Humans, Racing Days, Creatures, Aquatics, Canine, and Close Relations. Photography students worldwide have used his textbooks, including Black & White Photography, published by Little, Brown, which has sold close to seven hundred thousand copies to date. Horenstein lives in Boston and is a professor of photography at Rhode Island School of Design.

Click here for more information about the artist.

Wasp Ray Domestic Pig
Common Wasp (Vespa Vulgaris)
by Henry Horenstein
Bullnose Ray (Myliobatis freminvillii)
by Henry Horenstein
Domestic Pig (Sus scrofa domestica)
by Henry Horenstein

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Exhibitions and programs at the Southeast Museum of Photography are supported in part by Daytona State College, Volusia ECHO and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on the Arts.

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