My ongoing research interest is in the ways in which humans refer to, relate with, represent, fear and revere animals.  I examine representation of the animal in various media forms and the resulting relationship humans maintain with the image.  These “animal instances” are points of contact engineered and experienced by humans with non-human animals, specifically those that are media representations and significations, resulting in achieving a desired connection to the concept of the animal, itself.

For this study, I rely significantly upon image collection and analysis paired with philosophical writings on the human-animal connection.  I have worked collaboratively with graduate students research assistants also interested in the subject to create and maintain a web-based image archive,, which serves as a collection and access space that we draw from for reflection and example for writing and presentation.

My future plans are to continue work on the site, adding video examples and additional writing sections.  I also plan to begin production on a series of interviews with artists working with animal representation for a documentary film on the subject.

Creative Practice

I continue my photography practice and engage with in it on personal documentary projects and as research documentation. Drawing upon formalist training I received early on, I make photographs of objects, people and animals, with concentration on representational notions of subjectivity, objectivity and contemplations of time, place and one context’s influence upon another.

I am deeply concerned with the media artifact’s relation to lived life and my place in making the image. I am particularly drawn to the photographic essay when working with all subject matter. Continuing this work challenges me to further develop my technical skills and aesthetic sensibilities. It also supports my research work and allows me to bring current examples of the principles involved in media production and critique into the classroom.

Examples of my current photographic projects include documentation for a component of my research, that of the modern immersive environment zoo animal enclosure; an ongoing visual ethnography of NYC bicycles at rest and the creation of an interactive family archive consisting of images and family member’s contribution of memory in their voice.

See a sample tour of my portfolio here:
Dawnja Burris