Each of the dead animal portraits by Japanese photographer Tomofumi Nakano (1978) begins with the question, “Why do we kill and eat it?”
The relationships we form with animals are many: friends, companions, workers, pests, threats… and food. Yet, these relationships are not universal, Nakano stresses, saying, “Culture gives the meaning to the animals.” While in one culture, a dog is a pet and a cow is food, in another culture a dog is meat, and in another a cow is holy. Depending on where we have grown up, we may have the notion that eating one animal is acceptable, while eating another may be ‘disgusting’ or ‘wrong’ – yet, given that we are omnivores, it’s ambiguous why we eat them at all.
Nakano notes that our modern relationship with the animals we eat is one of remoteness: we typically find animals as packaged meats in supermarkets – pre-killed, cleaned and cut – in a form that renders them unrecognisable to their original living form. To produce his series, he decided to engage with animals-as-food in a much more direct way: travelling to different locations, he would determine the animals that were locally ‘acceptable’ to eat, and get support in killing and eating that animal. His photographs document this process.