Hippopotamus

Are eyes truly the windows to the soul? Spanish photographer Oscar Ciutat zooms in on the eyes of caged animals at the zoo. He doesn't try to force his opinion down other people's throats, rather, he asks his viewers to interpret what the animals are really trying to say...

When I first came across these images, I knew I had to get in contact with Oscar to find out more about his powerful "Caged" series. I recently caught up with him and he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions:

Can you please give us a brief background of yourself?
My name is Oscar Ciutat and I'm 35 years old. I was born in Barcelona where I studied Software Engineering and currently live. I didn't have any interest in photography up until 2001, when I got my first camera. What started as a simple hobby eventually turned into something really serious, even though I don't make a living off of it.

What was your inspiration for the "Caged" series?
The project started by chance back in 2008. I was visiting the local zoo, which I hadn't been to in ages, and started taking pictures of the captive animals, just like everyone else was doing. My attention kept being drawn to their eyes, which, to me, seemed very sad, and I ended focusing my camera on them. I was intrigued by whether my impressions would be apparent to other people in the images. I wondered if that popular old saying, referring to humans, that goes "the eyes are the windows to the soul" could hold true for animals as well.

What type of emotion do you feel from the shots?
As I said, I was more curious about other people's feelings and emotions than about my own. Reactions, so far, have been very diverse. Some people feel sorry for the animals while others see nothing wrong with zoos, which is really interesting to me. Basically, the point of the series was to test the ability of photography to elicit empathy for others.


Elephant

Deer

Rhinoceros

Sheep

Tapir

Wapiti

Wild Goat

Donkey

Guanaco

Thanks for the interview, Oscar! Great work!

Oscar Ciutat's website

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Tags: Caged, Oscar Ciutat, photo

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Comment by Lynn Anderson on February 25, 2011 at 3:51pm
i also agree with alyssa. definitely pulled emotion from me. excellent idea and fotos.
Comment by Adv3ntur3T1mE on February 4, 2011 at 7:44pm
I think tension exists and is created and maintained by the artist commenting that the pictures represent what one interprets as “caged.” The pictures are in no literal or grammatically technical way representation of the definition of caged as a feeling. The feeling of sadness that a viewer may get when imagining “cage” as a noun or a verb is independent of these particular pictures. A viewer would feel sadness whether or not the pictures were labeled, as they invoke several behavioral aspects that invoke this particular response. The label the artist used only directs the feeling towards a source within the viewer. This makes the work in this montage provoking as it communicates an idea more lucidly than the next. The tension is created when seeing the flip-side to this point of view; which compounds to the word “caged,” being the source of the feeling of sadness. This, is not the case and only undermines and dismisses the photographs as having no artistic merit. Even at the simplest level, which concedes that the choice of compositional design, whether the photo should “read” left to right or right to left, is a choice made by the artist. The merit of value must at the very least be considered, which merits it of some artistic value. This being the case, the source of sadness in this photo montage is not the word “caged.”

My favorites are the elephant and the sheep!
Comment by PANDA JU on February 4, 2011 at 6:40pm
I want a donkey.
Comment by Amy Wong on February 4, 2011 at 5:12pm
I agree with Alyssa. When I see these images, I feel sad for them...
Comment by Josh Taylor on February 4, 2011 at 4:18pm
"He doesn't try to force his opinion down other people's throats, rather, he asks his viewers to interpret what the animals are really trying to say... "

When you label the exhibit as "caged" and telling people they're caged animals you're already invoking a feeling of sadness on people. What honest opinions and interpretations are you expecting from people on the work when you're guiding them?
Comment by Alyssa Anda on February 4, 2011 at 2:32pm
When I look at these pictures, I see sad animals. There is nothing wrong, it's just sadness. I can't help but feel sorry for them. With that being said, this is brilliant photography. Ciutat definitely was able to elicit emotion from me.
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