Close Encounters with Nine Francois

Her Animalia series is a photographic menagerie of startling, sensitive portraits

Limited-edition archival pigment print, 16 x 16, 30 x 30, or 40 x 40 inches

THE ARTIST: Nine Francois

KNOWN FOR: Her Animalia series: a photographic menagerie of startling, sensitive portraits.

ANIMAL TALK: “Everybody has this primordial connection with animals. After parental bonds, animal bonds are the next important emotional, social bonding experience for babies. When my daughter was little she could say the names of 40 animals, and her language buildup through animal imagery made me connected to the building of language, like an alphabet. And so, the stark background, the square format, the black frame around it and then that dark animal that cuts a shape in the box—it’s kind of related to alphabet blocks.”

EMOTIONAL EXPOSURE: “The Animalia series started when I drove by a bed-and-breakfast and saw a giraffe poking its head over the fence—a dark animal against a bright background. They’re all shot against the sky; the white part is not the studio. For viewers, what they get is a really visually graphic representation of an incredible creature taken out of context with no real environment—in an iconic and sort of abstracted form. It’s kind of crazy how connected we are to animals, and we’ve just kind of lost sight of that.”

FINDING HER SUBJECTS: “They’re not in the wild—they’re usually in sanctuaries or in big enclosures where they’re used to seeing humans. There’s nothing between us, and many times I’m crouched below the animal only 5 or 6 feet away.”

NEXT: Nine dreams of completing an entire alphabet book of animals, but she’s still five letters short. If you happen to have an animal representing the letter J, N, Q, X or V, she’d love to hear from you.

Categories: Artists & Artisans