Giraffe Behind the Door

In a journey through five New York zoos, photographer Asmita Parelkar questions the relationship between humans and animals in her project 'Giraffe Behind the Door'.

During a visit to the Bronx Zoo one winter, Asmita Parelkar opened a door and was surprised to find giraffes inside the room she entered. Animals from the tropics and deserts are often confined to closed enclosures to keep them protected from the harsh winters of New York that they are unused to. However, the sight of the giraffes in a room was so removed from her mental image of these beautiful animals in the Savannah that it made her think about where they belong, she says.

In her photo series, 'Giraffe Behind the Door' inspired by this unusual encounter, Asmita captures these animals in their enclosures, where the illusion of their natural habitats have been recreated with beautifully painted dioramas but ultimately they are just animals in captivity. The photo series is a journey through five New York zoos and comments on the psychological spaces of the animals in them.  

The project is also a larger social comment, as Asmita puts it, "as human beings evolved so did the environment around us. We built walls, set boundaries and kept the wilderness out. In our efforts to connect back with nature we built gardens and zoos, confining the wild animals in cages and glass boxes." 

Working closely with animals, Asmita's work reflects the love she has for them, often with what seem like affectionate portraits rather than studies. She frequently uses photography to explore the relationship human beings share with animals. She has loved animals for as long as she can remember, she says. "It's something I can't explain, but I feel."

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