Our car roared down the long, stretched-out straightaway towards the campgrounds. Watching the scenery go by like a distorted photograph; the colors played and mixed as if it had been packed by an artist’s brush. It had rained the night before we headed out leaving the soil damp, filling our noses with earth’s fresh scents. Looking out my water laced window, there appeared a passing feedlot filled to the brim with polka dotted bodies all with numbers as names. Readying myself with my camera and freshly wiped lenses, I rolled the window down, exposing my face to a brisk, chilling breeze. The cool air sending a stench of fear and death into my flaring nostrils.
Steadily aiming my camera outside, I planned to shoot still shots of the labeled faces whose eyes pierced longingly into mine. Faces that would soon thereafter be lost in the midst of a sea of red and surrounding darkness behind hidden walls. My mind whirled with confusion and surged with empathetic thoughts towards these beings. In the midst of the adrenaline surging through my body, I began collecting portraits of the members forced into a modern-day, hidden holocaust. Labeled commodities that roamed pens enclosing them from their right to freedom, just a singular tribulation of being another species in a humanity ruled world. One lay motionless outside of the rusted gate for all of them to mourn, pacing back and forth, wailing from the other side of this division. A divide as split and divided as that of our relationship with other species.
The other side of the property revealed hundreds of crates confining the calves of broken-hearted mothers, lined up in rows, teetering with chipped wood and flaking paint. They paced back and forth with their heads thrashing, banging their bodies against the wire siding, their boredom seeping through. We slowed and I chose to leave the safety and comfort of the vehicle. Reaching out gentle fingertips to #975, he cowered as if I was to thrust some sort of superior force upon his helpless soul. Touching their wet hair and soft noses sent a warm sadness into my soul. After about half an hour, we turned around and left the property, leaving each of them behind us. Slowly fading from the rearview mirror into a smudge, but not from my mind. I have been haunted by those noises, melancholy blasts screaming into my eardrums some nights. It was the day that molded and stirred a passion within me to continue in taking photographs of these hidden realities.
As we entered the campgrounds and our small cabin to sleep the darkness away, I was met with flashbacks to the cold morning earlier that day. The light in their eyes had spoken words into my heart that broke the barrier of disconnection between man and non-human animal. Those faces I came across first hand that morning are the same ones that further push me into the idea of this project; reminding me the importance of abolishing the actions that have obtained normalcy in this present world. Laying underneath an open window with a stained face, I ran the numbers that had been made into names throughout my head (#1515 being the first of the many I met that day, I pray she is in a happier place some day). As I drifted into my sleep, the lights in their eyes vanished into the oblivion of the stars above and with them my whole soul awakened.
With such a passion now inside of me, the summer of 2017 will start this project of seeking to expose faces and photographs for the world to see. Faces that would otherwise go unseen, forgotten and uncared for in a bustling world. (All photography by Hannah M. Sullivan, a teen article writer for Namastera.)