About the Photographer
American, b. 1970
Colleen Plumb creates photographs, videos, objects, and public video projections about the contradictory relationships people have with animals, exploring ways animal captivity is standardized across the world and the human domination of nature. She began her series, Animals Are Outside Today (1997-ongoing), by looking for examples of "fake nature," as she describes it—simulations of natural environments or their substitutes in urban contexts. Some of the photographs illustrate how people coexist with or exert control over animals, whether by keeping them as domesticated pets, raising them as livestock, or presenting them to spectators in zoos or circuses. In many of her images, harsher realities emerge, and death becomes an underlying theme. Photographs of pig carcasses in a butcher shop, for instance, underline the unthinking urges of human consumption. Meanwhile, other images depict the bodies of dead animals left to decay in public places, as in one of a gray mouse on a sidewalk, overlooked in a manner that would be inconceivable with human remains. Typically capturing these moments with a narrow depth of field and from a low angle, Plumb brings the viewer in close to the animals, entering their immediate domain, while the wider surroundings become a blur.
Plumb's work is held in several permanent collections and has been widely exhibited, including the Portland Art Museum (2015), Milwaukee Art Museum (2010), Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (2008), Blue Sky Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts in Portland (2015), Dina Mitrani Gallery (2014), and The Screening Room in Miami (2014), Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona (2009), Jen Bekman Gallery in New York (2011), Union League Club of Chicago (2012), and the Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago (2007). Her work has been part of The Chicago Project at Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago since 2005 and the Midwest Photographers Project at the Museum of Contemporary Photography since 2003. She has written for the Center for Humans and Nature, an organization dedicated to exploring and promoting human responsibilities in relation to nature, and was a contributor to their newly released book, City Creatures (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Plumb is an Openlands Treekeeper, a Chicago metropolitan conservation organization. Plumb is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago.