In Gallery 1, Eric Slayton presents the photographic installation Zooborhood, which began in 2004 while working as a field biologist on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo. The project documents the cultural and social relationships that are mediated by Bronx Zoo employees who also live in the Bronx. As Slayton states, “The zoo employees, from animal keepers to administrators, merchandising to food service, security to transportation, who live in the Bronx represent unique contemporary views of nature because of their direct links to urbanity and wilderness.”
The resulting images present the duality of each of Slayton’s subjects in their respective work and home locations. This pendulum of environments is captured through a photographic adaptation of the biographical narrative that is reminiscent to family album portraiture or the vacation snapshot. Slayton’s back of the house access to the zoo grounds and its employees, which has never been granted to a photographer before, offers a visual entry into manicured and dramatic ecological environments and the intimate urban realities and stories that surround them.
Additionally, each pair of photographs is flanked by short anecdotes of wall text extracted from questionnaire and interview sessions that the artist also conducted. By working closely with more than forty-five individuals over the past three years, this project also reveals that dignity in the workplace along with a strong neighborhood affiliation creates a “Pride of Place.” In the future, Eric Slayton plans to continue the Zooborhood project by exploring other national and international zoos that are located in dense urban areas.