Vamika Jain






When I couldn’t look them in the eye

When I couldn’t look them in the eye is a photo project which explores the constant game of gaze and spectacle between caged animals and visitors in a zoo. Zoos in all parts of the world function as institutions of entertainment, and awareness channels of the animals. They are popular amongst children who enjoy coming to the zoo to ‘look’ at their favourite animals. Under the umbrella of knowledge and conservation, is it right to keep animals in constructed cages? Isn’t it exercising human domination over animals? The project looks at the way we look at animals in the zoo which are presented as objects of pleasurable nature. We, as humans, run around different enclosures to spot animals, we make sounds at them, tease them and showcase our power of control over them through a zoo.
Coming across various zoo accidents where people had made suicide attempts by jumping into a cage, were drunk and fell, made bets with friends pn contesting with animals have made me think about our unapologetic outlook towards the  species locked up for our enjoyment. During these ‘accidents’, the animals were almost always shot down by the zookeepers to save the humans who, in most cases were themselves responsible for the act. The gaze to which these animals are subjected in a zoo is intrusive and voyeuristic; We are in constant greed for more visuals and information from the menageries.
The project looks at people looking at animals and their interaction with them in a zoo. The desire to get closer to animals, to see more of them causes more restrain for the animals. The project has been photographed in India, Germany and Czech Republic and finds people’s behaviour similar in all the three countries.