Memento Mori / Taiwan 2012
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”–Ghandi
These images record the last moments of life for some dogs found in public pounds run by governmental agencies in Taiwan. These portraits are taken on the very day in which the animal depicted is about to be put down or mercifully killed. These images are but a small fraction of the total body of work in this ongoing project.
Utilizing the classic portrait style that originated in the early 19th century with the birth of photography as an art form these photographs offer the viewer a chance to look attentively into a bleak future. These dogs are essential dead and their souls are hours, minutes away from non-existence. These portraits reflect a formal construct or platform through which the viewer and the dog “communicate” using exchanged gazes to create a forced contemplation.
Photographic images allow us to contemplate. Through contemplation we gain an understanding of the uniqueness and nobility of life. Through contemplation we understand how chaotic and disordered the world has become.
The tyranny of human has caused and today is still causing an amount of pain and suffering over nonhuman animals. Nonhuman animals should be treated as independent sentient beings that they are, and not as a means to human being.
People should consider animal rights as a moral issue rather than appealing to emotional affection. As Peter Singer wrote in his Animal Liberation, “The portrayal of those who protest against cruelty to animals as sentimental, emotional “animal-lovers” has had the effect of excluding the entire issue of our treatment of nonhumans from serious political and moral discussion.”
The purpose of this project is to arouse people’s awareness of animals rights and make people think through, carefully and consistently, the question of how we ought to treat nonhuman animals. The animals themselves are incapable of demanding their own liberation, or of protesting against their condition with votes, demonstrations, or boycotts. We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.
The photographic image is merely a vehicle of communication that can lead to a better understanding of a situation, an event, of ourselves and of the world around us.
In viewing these specific images, one looks directly into the eyes of the dog and the dog looks back. These images reflect the last opportunity to look. This is a final and decisive moment. Death is eminent and all that is asked of the viewer is to engage, to recognize the common bonds and to honor the resemblances between our lives.
More info added 2015:
Born in 1975, Yun-Fei Tou first encountered the art of photography in 1991, as a student at The American School in Switzerland. In 1998, he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a major in photography. In 2007 and 2008, Yun-Fei Tou received the Golden Tripod Award for Photography, presented by the Government Information Office, Executive Yuan. In 2012, he received the grand prize of Taoyuan Creation Award. His work has been included in a number of solo and group exhibitions held in various venues such as: Kaohsiung Fine Art Museum, Taipei Photo Center, Taiwan Photo Museum, Taiwan International Visual Art Center, National Taiwan University of Arts, and three images from this series were included in 2011 New York Photo Festival “Provocation,” a Jury Invitational Exhibition. “MEMENTO MORI” is one of several long-term projects of Yun-Fei Tou.
2011〜 present / Contributing Photographer, BUSINESS WEEKLY, Taiwan
2010〜 present / Columnist, ESLITE STATION , Taiwan
2010〜present / Freelance Photographer
2010〜2011 / Photography Advisor , CHEERS MAGAZINE, Taiwan
2008〜2009 / Senior Photographer, CHEERS MAGAZINE, Taiwan
2004〜2008 / Photographer, RHYTHM MONTHLY, Taiwan
1999〜2003 / Curator/Art Director, Photography Studio of Yang Chi-Hsin
Exhibition and Publication
Oct 2011 “MEMENTO MORI”, PUNCTUM, issue 2, India.
Jul 2011 “The Mercy Killing of Stray Dogs”, BUSINESS WEEKLY, issue 1235, Taiwan.
May 2011 “The Uprising of New Farmers”, BUSINESS WEEKLY, issue 1224, Taiwan.
Mar 2011 “Provocation”, a juried invitational photo exhibition presented by New York Photo
Festival, New York.
2010〜2011 “Into Society: Critical Realism in Taiwanese Photography since 1990” exhibition