Nature on High: Photographs by Simen Johan
Photographer Simen Johan, represented by Yossi Milo gallery in New York City, takes large scale art photographs of animals, but they’re not just that. Take another look, give the photographs time, and the pieces fall together. Plenty of people take pictures of animals, and plenty of photographers make their living doing high scale animal photography for magazines and pet owners alike. Simen Johan is different. While his subjects are usually living zoo animals or, occasionally, taxidermy, they are more than just beautiful documentary photographs. Simeon Johan has the eye and takes what can only be described as Animal Rights Art Photography. They are crafted and composed, rather than documentary, with the emphasis on art rather than information. His work presents animals as worthy of empathy, whether through a bison dirtied by the destructive powers of humanity, or through a lemur in a moment of peaceful zen, resembling in its own way the Buddha, a being with power and soul, at peace with its environment. Snakes reach up into the sunlight like they are ascending into heaven, and his animals are made identifiable with the human condition and common themes of representation.
Johan says that the main idea in his work is the terrible effect that human interference has on animals and that chaos has been introduced to the wild. While that message is present in some of his works, I find something else there, something more potent. Simen Johan elevates his subjects to a higher state of being.