Review By CAROLYN M. MULLIN
Deborah Noyes is a wonderfully attentive and insightful author and photographer. Melding these two strengths into One Kingdom, she has summarized our oftentimes quirky, odd, abusive, symbiotic, and vastly interesting history living with animals through poetic and quizzical reflections. Her powerful black and white portraits bring to life the animal subjects at hand, out of the printed page and into the forefront our contemplations.
Designed for the young adult reader (and adults like us), it’s a perfect introduction to human-animal studies. The first half of the work focuses on our historical interactions: Paleolithic cave paintings, Egyptian animal mummification, medieval animal trials, touring animal troupes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and Victorian fondness of exotic animals. “Today and Tomorrow,” the second half of her work, investigates the idea of animals and self: what’s the distinction between us and them? What do animal hybrids such as Spiderman or a werewolf say about this connection? Noyes spends a great deal (and rightly so) focusing on captive animals in zoos. Here, she openly outlines her difficult thought process in coming to terms with the intrinsic value of zoological parks. You and I may feel differently, but she points out the existential, paradoxical quandary in a visit to the zoo –
“…we watch through wire or glass aching for a connection [with an animal] that rarely comes. Some children rap on the window or otherwise urge the animals on with funny faces and undignified attempts at cross-species communication. Do something, we think, and they do precisely what they will or won’t. Natural antics… delight us, but…pacing, swaying, regurgitating food, or flinging feces evoke a vague embarrassment, as of some unwelcome intimacy.…Perhaps we’re uneasy because the animals withhold from us the one thing we would have: their consent.”
One Kingdom will take you on a global tour of fascinating, timely, and near-and-dear-to-our-hearts subject of human-animal relations. It’s short, accessible chapters make this a wonderful coffee table book. Highly recommended!