“How did you get started photographing animals and donuts?”

Manatee on bike pulls manatee cub riding on a raspberry donut.

Manatee on bike pulls manatee cub riding on a raspberry donut.

I get this question all the time. It is a bit of a weird concept I know. To be honest, as with most art forms, it happened completely by accident. I was staying at my friend’s house in Florida and of course I had my camera with me everywhere we went. We were on the western coast and my friend showed me all sorts of wonderful and strange tourist attractions. From state parks which were home to many, many alligators to sponge diving docks in the Tarpon Springs area. We stopped for donuts and then walked along the old Greek style shopping area. To my delight, we found a giant plastic shark hanging upside down along the dock area and we saw a ton of tourists taking pictures with their heads in its mouth. I, being the polite person I am, offered the clearly hungry shark a donut and then took a picture.

My friend and I laughed it off and continued walking. Later that day, we were walking on the hot sandy beach and I tripped dropping one of my donuts. (Yes, we had quite a few). The donut landed right next to a hermit crab and I was struck by the juxtaposition. Here was a natural setting and an animal that could no more fathom the delicious nature of a donut than it could speak to me in Chinese. I snapped a picture. My friend and I decided to do that for the rest of the trip. We would find animals and place donuts next to them. Let me tell you, not all of those photos were art. In fact, most were complete crap that just made us laugh our asses off. But there were a few that stuck out to me. I decided to keep them.  As I traveled more and more I kept coming back to this idea. Animals and Donuts. Such a strange yet wonderful idea.

Hermit Crab on Apple Fritter.

Hermit Crab on Apple Fritter.

I love the concept of interrupting such a natural thing as animal life with such a preposterous thing as a donut. I also love the reactions I get from people when they view my art. Some think it’s great and some people tell me it’s ridiculous but no matter their stance on it, they all seem amused. They also are pulled in by their curiosity. There is something about the piece that makes them want more. They want an explanation for my work. They want to know what it means or how they are supposed to feel. And I refuse to tell them. They are supposed to feel exactly as they do. Disgust, delight, amusement, curiosity. All of these emotions cause them to look longer at the picture and to think harder about what they see even if only to understand how they feel about it.

Most people ask me what I do with the donuts when I am done taking the photos. I love to tell kids and older ladies that I eat them to see the expressions of horror on their faces but sadly that is not true. If I am home or traveling with my trusty dog companion, Max, he gets to eat the ones that aren’t too far gone. Since the inception of this photo series he has gotten quite fat. But boy is he a happy pup. And the rest of the donuts, the ones that have frog slime or sand on them, I throw away.

King Ra and Salted Caramel Donut.

King Ra and Salted Caramel Donut.

Another question I get asked a lot is “Why? Why do you do it?” This is still part of the inner conflict people have when they look at my photos. They need a reason to cling to. But my only answer is “because I can.”

I hope the next time you see a donut you will think about what animal will go best with its glaze. I hope the next time you see an animal you think, “Huh… I could really go for a donut.”

Jeff LukeComment