Precious Animals is a photo-project about the relationship between animals and humans who live in the Netherlands. On the one hand, it focuses on animals as manufactured consumer products, with efficiency playing the leading role. On the other hand, it shows the very same consumers of “food animals” pampering their own pets and other cuddly creatures.
The project displays photograph Jan van IJken’s non-judgmental search for answers to questions like, “What is an animal’s life worth in the Netherlands?” and “Why do we have animal ambulances and canine psychologists, and at the same time pen millions of chickens with clipped beaks in a coop?” It shows his recognition of the strange dichotomy between exploiters of animals, such as factory farms that manufacture edible products out of them and scientists who do genetic research on them, and, at the opposite extreme, animal-lovers’ expressions of affection for their own pets — or for animals in general. That affection can be shown in bizarre ways, when, for example, dogs are dolled up in clothing, pets are put to rest in special pet cemeteries, and workshops are offered on cow cuddling.
Precious Animals was commissioned by the Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad as part of their series “Document Nederland.” The photos were exhibited in the photo museum Huis Marseille in Amsterdam from November 2005 to February 2006, along with a special supplement of NRC Handelsblad and the publication of the photobook Dierbaar.
The series was published in many international newspapers and magazines (e.g. De Morgen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, El Mundo Magazine, Eight, Mother Jones Magazine and Days Japan). It received a Humanity Photo Award and an International Photography Award and was selected for American Photography. For more information, visit http://www.janvanijken.com.