Poignant Photos of Animals Living in Captivity

gorilla in captivity

Animals in captivity are always a double edged sword. While zoologists will always try their best to provide the finest care and simulate wild life conditions, being plucked out of the wild ultimately relegates an animal to some form of captivity. Whether that space is 20 by 20 foot area, or perhaps much larger like a few acres of land, fundamentally, it is still an encaged animal. Most photos of animals shown in these restricted environments depict them as if they were living under thoroughly normal conditions, as if they never left in the wild. Daniel Zakharov, however does the exact opposite. Instead of obscuring the physical boundaries of the animal’s confinement, the photographer purposely shows the bars, glass, and concrete or whatever barriers there may be in as conspicuous a way as possible.

hippo in captivity

He shoots his images, juxtaposing the fake wild landscape against some very real, urban landmarks. The technique effectively draws attention towards the often ignored abnormality of captive animal life. What his pictures depict are animals living in abject misery, innocent prisoners deprived of their physical freedom.

giraffe in captivity

The project called Modern Wilderness was conceived of by the German photographer to call attention to the issue of “animals in imprisonment.” Purposely, he avoids bright vibrant colors usually associated with the wild, and instead, makes use of dull dreary colors that paint a mood of melancholy and sadness. “My intention was not to criticize zoos,” wrote Zakharov. Instead his intent was that we “focus on the strange and bizarre daily life of animals.”

mountain lion in captivity

For him, the title Modern Wilderness calls attention to the fact that animals born in captivity live in state of abomination. For Zakharov, these creatures live “between concrete, tiling, cement-slab buildings and artificial landscapes” instead of the “endless stretch of nature” which is their birthright to begin with. To him, these animals “have lost the memory of their ancestral breeding grounds.”

wild animal in captivity

gorilla in captivity

lion in captivity

View the habitually ignored cruelty we have grown accustomed to in Zakharov’s Modern Wilderness

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.