Abstract

The photo essay that comprises Elephant House bears mournful testimony to the severely restricted lives of the world’s largest terrestrial mammals at the Oregon Zoo, as well as similar “educational” institutions throughout the United States and the world. While purporting to remain neutral regarding the ethics of keeping pachyderms in captivity, ethno-photographer Dick Blau and author-historian Nigel Rothfels’s provocative book could easily arouse angry or disconsolate reactions in many readers. Rather than focusing on the pachyderms themselves, Elephant House takes a more anthropocentric stance (through zookeepers’ eyes), pinpointing the intertwined relationships between these magnificent animals and the humans who strive to keep them as mentally stimulated and healthy as possible, albeit in a hopelessly confined and unnatural environment.

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