Sharon Lee Hart | Sanctuary: Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals

The few cows and pigs I encountered growing up struck me as similar to our beloved dogs and cats, but I noticed early on that they were not treated with the same love and respect. With pitifully few laws protecting farmed animals, many of them are forced to live in small confinement crates, often mutilated, mistreated, and deprived of even the most basic necessities. As a photographer I have an opportunity capture the resilience and spirit of rescued farm animals and to portray them as beings with a life in their own right, separate from human concepts imposed on them.

I visited and photographed animal residents at ten US farm animal sanctuaries in Virginia, Florida, Maryland, Michigan and New York State, which are all dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and lifelong care of abused and neglected farmed animals. The process of making a formal portrait of an individual started with observing and often waiting until they approached me. Putting myself in the position necessary to engage and make eye contact with the animal, I was able to capture the encounter between us – in some cases a subtle expression, a gaze, in others a change in body language, even expressions of playfulness.

The sanctuary enables the animals to grow old and live out their full natural life span, not afforded to animals that are typically raised to slaughtered at a very young age. Every single survivor in this series represents a “lottery winner” that now lives in a safe, loving environment. This stands in contrast to the billions of their species that will never make it to a sanctuary. In those ways, each portrait is a plea to help those who are still suffering.

Sharon Lee Hart

Sharon Lee Hart

Sharon Lee Hart was born in Washington DC. She is a fine art photographer working in Florida creating personal work and teaching at Florida Atlantic University. She earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Hart received a grant from the Tennessee State Art Commission and an activist award from PhotoPhilanthropy.

Her book, Sanctuary: Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals was published in the fall of 2012. Hart has exhibited her photographs and mixed media works nationally. Her work can be viewed on and, where additional images and resources related to Sanctuary can be found.