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Photo Essay: Domesticated

One photographer’s take on the mystery of the wild, and our constant efforts to tame it.

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A black bear faces off with a young girl, peering over a chain link fence at the smooth planes of concrete and pool water laid out in front of her house.

A small band of seagulls congregates around a box of fast food french fries, discarded in an empty parking lot.

A child studies three shimmering goldfish in a plastic bag in front of a clear blue pond.

New York City photographer Amy Stein's photos are populated by characters—both human and non-human—who bump up against, in Stein's words, the "comfort and fear, dependence and determination, submission and dominance that play out in the physical and psychological encounters between man and the natural world."

Stein's series, "Domesticated," was awarded the Saatchi Gallery/Guardian prize in 2006, and the subsequent book received the award for best book at 2008's New York Photo Festival.

The photographs, which depict wild animals encountering and interacting with humans and the built environment, were constructed. They were set up based on oral accounts from residents of and near Matamoras, a small town in Northeast Pennsylvania.

Stein says of her work, "Within these scenes I explore our paradoxical relationship with the 'wild' and how our conflicting impulses continue to evolve and alter the behavior of both humans and animals. We at once seek connection with the mystery and freedom of the natural world, yet we continually strive to tame the wild around us and compulsively control the wild within our own nature."

To view the photo essay, click here. Quotations are based on the original oral accounts.


Amy Stein is a photographer and teacher based in New York City. Her work explores our evolving isolation from community, culture, and the environment. She has been exhibited nationally and internationally and her work is featured in many private and public collections such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Nevada Museum of Art, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and the West Collection. Her portfolio can be viewed here.

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