Touching, Beautiful Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals

The Photo Blog
April 11 2014 11:13 AM

Touching, Beautiful Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals

Norman, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Sharon Lee Hart

Like many animal lovers, photographer Sharon Lee Hart is concerned about the mistreatment, abuse, and neglect of animals. But for her book, Sanctuary: Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals, Hart decided to tell a different kind of story about animals that have seen hard times. “Folks are disturbed by images that depict abuse and torture that can occur on factory farms, and I don't blame them. It is unbearably disturbing, but I think those types of images are essential because they inform the public about the horrors that are occurring,” Hart said via email. “I admire those that make those difficult images, but I wanted to approach this from another angle and create portraits that people don’t want to look away from.” 

Hart was in a residency program in Michigan in 2009 when she heard about Grateful Acres Animal Sanctuary, a facility that rescues and rehabilitates farm animals. The sanctuary was only open to the public a few times a year, but Hart persuaded the owners to let her take a look, and she ended up spending eight hours there on her first visit. Inspired by that experience, Hart ultimately visited 10 sanctuaries over the course of a year, taking powerful, intimate portraits of the lucky animals that have survived harrowing experiences. She donates a portion of her print sales to those sanctuaries.

Russell, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Sharon Lee Hart

Mary Jane, Grateful Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary

Sharon Lee Hart

Duncan, Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary

Sharon Lee Hart

Hart’s photographic approach reflects the seriousness of her endeavor and the respect she harbors for her subjects. Upon arriving at a sanctuary, she’d sit on the ground with her Hasselblad 503 and wait for an animal to approach her. “I felt I won some sort of prize when an animal that looked shy and timid would come over,” Hart said in a phone interview. “The lower perspective helped, especially with the smaller animals. They're little, and if you're looming over them they can't see your eyes. They don't know your intentions.”


In this way, Hart had some pretty interesting encounters. At Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary in New York, she met Duncan, a goat who’d escaped a live meat market with another goat. Duncan “seemed like a mischievous little brother” and immediately stole Hart’s mittens out of her back pocket. At United Poultry Concerns, Amelia the turkey followed her around for the entire duration of her visit. Hart also witnessed many unexpected friendships. At Catskill Animal Sanctuary in upstate New York, Hart wandered into a barn and found Rambo the ram and Barbie the hen sleeping soundly together. During her entire visit, the pair seemed to be stuck to each other’s side. “I do want folks that view my photographs to see that these animals are sentient creatures with emotions and intellect. I experienced first hand the range of personalities that exist in farm animals and they are certainly as varied as human personalities,” Hart said via email.

Kaola, United Poultry Concerns

Sharon Lee Hart

Heidi, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary

Sharon Lee Hart

Dee Dee, Star Gazing Farm

Sharon Lee Hart

Amelia, United Poultry Concerns

Sharon Lee Hart

Aries, Catskill Animal Sanctuary

Sharon Lee Hart

Arnold, United Poultry Concerns

Sharon Lee Hart


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.