A few weeks ago Jonathan mentioned that a Washington Post photographer would be coming out with him to the sanctuary one weekend. An article is in the works on the Humane Society University, and pictures of Jonathan (who teaches a course at the university) at the sanctuary would be included.
Last Saturday the Post photographer showed up. It was overcast, and quite muddy, but that didn’t seem to bother Marvin Joseph (check out some of his work!). He viewed the animals with the same glee and excitement that is common to young kids, but much less usual in adults. He followed Jonathan all morning. He took pictures of us unloading muck buckets into the spreader, of geese flying overhead, of all of the animals and of us interacting with them. He loved it all. A lot of what he took, he told us, was just for his own pleasure. I can certainly understand that!
Doesn't it look like Harrison is jumping for joy?
Harrison spends nights in the infirmary these days with a couple other residents (Morgan and Gertrude, these days) who don’t handle the cold very well and need a warmer place overnight. When we got down to the chicken yard, I brought the three out of the infirmary so they could enjoy the day. Harrison’s girls live up in the “playhouse”, so I carried him up the hill to join them.
Harrison with Clarice and Iris (background)
Harrison is looking amazingly good these days. Last summer or fall he wasn’t feeling very good, and his comb started to lose color and flop over. It turned out to be an impacted crop – basically he had a knot of grass in there and he had to have surgery to get fixed up. That was a first at PSAS! Very soon after he came back to the sanctuary you could see his comb standing up straight again, and becoming that vibrant red. And of course he had more and more energy as he recovered. Now he’s back to his old self, and his girls are very happy about that!
As I walked up to the playhouse with Harrison in my arms, Marvin was on his way down to the chicken yard. His eyes lit up at the sight of Harrison. Maybe it was a strange and exciting sight to see someone holding a chicken, or a bird of any kind? I remember being somewhat shocked when I first realized that some chickens actually let us hold them. That some actually like it!
Marvin took a bunch of pictures, and then switched cameras to get a close up. “You have such a beautiful wattle,” he said.
“You are talking about Harrison, right?”
Once down in the chicken yard, Marvin was entranced by Edward. Edward was very happy to perform for the camera. He displayed, and shook his tail feathers, and just plain thrilled Marvin.
Marvin and Edward
Marvin showed us some of the Edward pics he’d grabbed with his iPhone, and then showed us a couple of iPhone shots he had with Meryl Streep. “A lot of what I do,” he explained, “is take portraits of celebrities.” Jonathan and I agreed that this made sense; after all, he was there taking pictures of Edward!
I suspect we’re an odd bunch at the sanctuary. As gorgeous as the pictures of Meryl were, as cool as I suspect it must be that he takes pictures of such famous people, we were so much more thrilled that Marvin was thrilled with Edward and the rest of the animals at the sanctuary.
And seriously, he understood them. When we were walking by the pig barn after finishing up at the sheep and goat yards, the cows were all lined up, facing the sheep barn, and mooing. Emily, the young blind cow, has an infection in her tooth and is contained in the sheep yard for a few weeks so that it’s possible to give her the shots she needs to get better. The cows do not like to be separated. Emily was calling to them, and they were calling back. Marvin understood what was going on immediately.
I’d call it empathy. Whether it’s something innate or learned, empathy is one thing that makes him a good portraitist, a good photographer. I can’t help but to wonder whether that makes him reachable with an AR message. I told the rescue stories of some of the individuals he was taking pictures of. That’s ingrained in me at this point – between the blogging and the sanctuary events, and even just in conversation with the other volunteers, recounting their stories goes hand in hand with telling people their names.
So…he heard some of the stories. He was horrified to learn of what happens at goat dairies. The potential for making connections regarding the products he buys is there, it’s just a question of whether it percolates in a way that produces change. That’s what we, as activists, can never predict.
And regardless of what Marvin does with the information, he took a morning’s worth of gorgeous photos, which will be published in a Washington Post article talking about, essentially, humane education. His pictures have the potential to help others make some of those connections. The empathy he had for the animals will show in those photos, whether or not his empathy pushes him to change his own habits.