Animal Advocacy: A Photographic Journey with Joanne McArthur
Care of Dylan Powell
I can’t remember the first time I consciously gazed upon a photograph taken by Jo-Anne McArthur, I had unknowingly seen her work for years, but I do remember the first time we met. It was almost a year ago at the Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down in Watkins Glen, New York and Jo-Anne greeted me as if we had been old friends. Her friendliness and openess are two things which you recognize immediately upon meeting her.
Jo-Anne’s photographic work has taken her around the globe, working tirelessly for grassroots organizations all the way up to large international organizations. Her work with the project, We Animals, is her attempt to use those skills to bring our relationships with animals to light. To be frank, her work is a nightmare that very few could endure. It regularly includes investigations and forces her to be present in the face of extreme desecration and brutality. For this reason alone, Jo-Anne is a inspiration to me.
Back to our first meeting. A highlight of the Hoe Down weekend is the Dance on Saturday night. The People Barn is loaded full of vegans from across North America and Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary co-founder, leads the night with his non-stop love of dancing. This year, he was not to be outdone by Jo-Anne, as the two regularly danced off and shared in an ecstatic joy of like minded people who have found, at least momentary, refuge. I was in awe of this person who carried such a weight, but who still was able to connect with others in joy.
As the year has wore on, I have developed a friendship with Jo-Anne to the point that I know more of the toll her work takes on her. A rescuer of animals and member of the vibrant Toronto Community, Jo-Anne is constantly torn between work that is gruelling, but yet vital, and home time, which always seems to be fleeting. She has opened up her work to me and offered her services to help me in my activism and only ever asked for hugs in return. As a friend, mentor and inspiration, I can’t think of a person more deserving of a profile, or of work more vital. I hope this opens up others to be touched by Jo-Anne’s work and creates a (momentary) space of joy for everyone else who is present in the face of the unthinkable.
Click here to visit Jo-Anne McArthur’s website and see examples of her work.