Jo-Anne McArthur, photojournalist with new book, “Captive”

by | Aug 23, 2017

Jo-Anne McArthur—the acclaimed photojournalist who specializes in documenting animals and their stories—explains how her work, compared with that of most other photographers with similar specialties, is informed by more than just a love for animals, but a profound concern for them. 1As part of this distinction, McArthur discusses how, just as she sees animals differently, she aims to present a different narrative with the images she shoots, hoping to educate, in one way or another, those viewing her photographs. She recounts how the idea for “Captive”—her new book exploring the interaction between humans and animals in captivity, featuring 148 images she shot in zoos and aquaria in more than 20 countries, along with some bits of text she wrote—came about (a request from the Born Free Foundation), and how the project went from 1-2that Born Free inquiry to published book within a year. She elaborates on an observation she makes in the book that most zoo visitors, on average, spend one to three hours there, but in carrying out the shooting for “Captive,” McArthur spent multiple hours—in some cases, multiple days—at zoos, which presented a 1-3much more sweeping, profound perspective on the boredom, inactivity and stereotypic behaviors that characterize the days of zoo animals. As much as “Captive” clearly reflects a critical look at zoos and comparable facilities, McArthur addresses a notable exception she briefly proifles in the book: Ron Kagan, longtime Executive Director of the Detroit Zoo, has run that park with a distinctive (some might say: visionary) approach, most notably when he decided about a dozen years ago that it was inhumane to continue displaying the zoo’s two elephants—given the attributes of their enclosure and elephants’ fundamental needs for space and to roam, not to mention the challenges of Detroit’s climate for pachyderms—and relocated them to the ARK 2000 sanctuary in Northern California operated by PAWS. Additionally, McArthur spoke to other topics—including a special video piece, “Promises,” released that day–and fielded some listener calls. (,


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Ali MacLean, a writer-producer who, with her writing partner, Tony Camin, has created a new TV program, “Wags To Riches,” a comedy series about dogs. It stars dogs, as well as comedians and actors like Mark Fite and Samm Levine, while other comics—and their dogs—have said they will make guest appearances if “Wags” goes to series. MacLean and Camin have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to shoot the pilot, and some proceeds are earmarked to go to Best Friends NKLA, the no-kill shelter in Los Angeles. (

COMEDY CORNER: Jeremy Hotz’s “Bronx Zoo” (portion) (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote”


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