Australasian Animal Studies Association

Jane, archival pigment print, 19” x 21”, 2010


My nocturnal portraits of animals explore ideas of animal autonomy, trespass, and artistic collaboration at the pixellated interface of wilderness and camera lens.  Animals regard us in the darkness, and we are unaware.  We cannot see them without mechanical aid and the animals’ permission. What we see later in the portraits — the tapeta lucida, source of their superior night vision, reflecting as blank white discs– is unsettling, seems somehow impersonal. In returning our gaze they appear to see through us. The night belongs to them.

Using a combination of handheld techniques and motion-detection, I work primarily on farmland in Georgia where hunting is banned, and I try to be extremely sensitive to the exigencies of animal lives. While aware of the infrared flash, the animals who engage with my camera appear more curious than disturbed. In daylight, these same animals often watch me from a slight distance, but I know them best through what they have chosen to reveal to the camera. Over the years, watching and tracking me in turn, I hope they’ve found me generally harmless. I rely on their indulgence and curiosity.


Lee Deigaard lives and works in New Orleans, Louisiana where she is a member of the artist collective The Front. Trained as a sculptor, she works in a variety of media including drawing, photography, video, and painting.

She graduated from Yale University with a major in fine arts and earned graduate degrees from the University of Michigan School of Art and Design and from the University of Texas at Austin where she held a Michener Fellowship in Creative Writing.

Recurring themes in her work include animal protagonists, cross-species interactions and connections, ancient trees, bayous, and neural networks.  She is represented in the Drawing Center’s Viewing Program in New York.  Her Memorial to Topsy the elephant is on permanent display at the Coney Island Museum in Brooklyn, NY.
(additional art and writing by the artist exploring the lives of animals and the ways we communicate).