It used to be that the term ‘animal sanctuary’ would typically only bring up thoughts of spaces dedicated to wildlife, or dogs and cats, but sanctuaries that focus on ‘farmed animals’ are becoming more and more common. One such example is Where Pigs Fly, which began just over two years old in the beautiful surrounds of Laguna in the lower Hunter Valley (inland from Newcastle and under a two-hour drive north of Sydney). I’m unfortunately yet to visit the sanctuary itself, but I’ve met its founder Debbie a few times at events such as the Animal Activists Forum and Cruelty Free Festival. Her work focuses on a combination of hands-on rescue and education. The “I Am Someone” exhibition currently showing at the Special Group Gallery in Surry Hills brings both of these approaches together, with strikingly emotive photographic portraits of some of the lucky Where Pigs Fly residents, taken by the award-winning Gary Sheppard. Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the opening night, and I absolutely fell in love with so many of the beautiful images.
I was the first visitor through the doors, so managed to get some photographs of the artworks themselves before the room filled up. (I did check first to make sure it was ok to photograph the artworks, as I didn’t want to impinge on Gary’s copyright!)
The whole night was amazing, with delicious vegan catering including canapés from Seeds to Feeds, boutique tree nut cheeses from Sprout and Kernel, and a lovely array of crudités, dips, and fresh fruit. One great thing about the night – besides the vegan food and the actual exhibit! – is that typically around a decade or 15 years ago I would go to specifically vegan-friendly events such as this and usually know about 80% of the people in the room. But the movement has grown so much that this time around I only knew about 20% of those there. This is just another great example of how much the scene has expanded – or should I say exploded? It’s fantastic to see, and I can only hope that the growth continues exponentially.
Congratulations to Gary Sheppard, who spoke movingly about his motivation for the exhibition: “The project’s aim is to challenge and reconstruct society’s perception of farm animals as sentient and emotional beings inspiring greater respect and compassion towards them.”
Certainly, no one could view the images in this particular exhibition and be left with any doubt about the individuality of each subject’s experience.
Every image is available for purchase, in four print sizes from 50cm x 42cm ($150) to the impressive 150cm x 125cm ($800). The photographs are all stunningly detailed, and I certainly envy anyone with the wall space for a larger sized print! We stretched ourselves to two of the smallest ones – one being of Harriet the pig (in honour of pigs being the main reason I went vego in the first place all those years ago – as briefly mentioned in my spoken word piece “This Muddy Swine”) and one of Maggie the goat (TGO’s choice!).
Anyone in Sydney has two weeks left to attend this remarkable and memorable exhibit. If you can’t attend in person, all the images are on the Where Pigs Fly website to view and purchase – as mentioned, these two are my favourites, but you can scroll through the WPF site to look at all 33 incredible shots:
I Am Someone is open from 10am every day until Saturday 19th November, closing at 5pm on weekdays and 4pm on weekends. Get yourself down to the Special Group Gallery at 270 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills – the chance to see the photographs up close in large format is not to be missed! And even better, all proceeds from the exhibit go to the sanctuary “to assist in their ongoing rescue and outreach work.”
who is MC Pony?
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