Precious Animals (2005) is a photo project about the relationship between animals and humans, focusing on animals as manufactured consumer products on the one hand, with efficiency playing the leading role, and these very consumers and their habit of pampering their own pets and other cuddly two and four-legged creatures, on the other hand.

Jan van IJken has searched for an answer to the questions ‘What is an animal’s life worth in the Netherlands?’ and ‘Why do we have animal ambulances and canine psychologists, and at the same time pen up millions of chickens with clipped beaks in a coop?’ The factory farming industry uses animals to manufacture an edible product, but animals are also used in genetic and other scientific research. However, people sometimes display a bizarre affection for their own pets or for animals in general. This results in everything from shows with ‘dolled up’ animals to workshops on cow cuddling and pet cemeteries.

The photographer’s aim was not to pass judgment, but to incite questions about how we deal with animals in the Netherlands.

Precious Animals was commissioned by the Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad as part of their series ‘Document Nederland’. The photos were exhibited in photo museum Huis Marseille, Amsterdam from Nov 2005 – Feb 2006, along with the publication of the photobook Dierbaar.

The photographer has since made his first documentary film, Facing Animals, which was released in 2012. It was screened at many international film festivals and won a few awards.

Photobook Dierbaar / Precious Animals
by Jan Van IJken

Publisher Voetnoot, Antwerp, Belgium
With introduction and texts by Ivo de Wijs
96 pages, 21×24 cm
84 black/white photos printed in tritone
ISBN 9071877981