The Polar Bear in the Zoo

The Polar Bear in the ZooThe Polar Bear in the Zoo
A Speculation
9781590563892, $7.99 ebook
Lantern Books, {bio}graphies
May 2013

Part of Lantern’s {bio}graphies series, which explores the relationship between human and nonhuman animals through diverse lenses.

In The Polar Bear in the Zoo, I study a photograph by the Canadian photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur in the context of her series We Animals and the portraits of several other photographers of captive animals. I look at how we come to the window to stare at the creatures, and the ways we frame our ideas about them within the exposure and capture provided by the photograph and the zoo.

As part of my analysis, I relate my own frames as an animal activist, my blind spots and effacements, and how the various tropes that are evoked in McArthur’s photograph reflect our human tendency to honor the act of seeing—including our beliefs in the epiphanic—above our other senses, and our willingness to confront what we see or turn away.