If you're like me, you can remember the discrete moment when the zoo stopped being fun and started being sad; when the jungle behind the animals stopped looking like jungle and started looking like concrete masonry painted with clumsy murals of natural scenes.
In reality, the terrariums and enclosures that zoos build for animals aren't really just for the benefit of the animals—they're for us, the humans, for whom seeing a lion sitting against cement blocks evokes just a little too much cognitive dissonance.
Jakub Skokan and Martin Tůma, two Czech artists behind an ongoing photo essay called Zoolandscape, describe them as set designs:
The animals' environment is made artificially out of imitating materials or is reconstructed from original living products of nature. The landscape is simplified, systematised and idealised. It is adjusted to meet the aesthetic demands of a viewer and just like a stage in a theatre it aims to present the animal—the performer—in the most ideal way.
The duo shot these "stages" in five different zoos, capturing everything from faux-Himalayan mountain peeks to arid desert canyons, all faithfully recreated on stucco backdrops and dreary grey skies. They're fascinating photos—but it's hard not to react to some of the images with a healthy dose of disgust for zoos that exist for entertainment alone. [Zoolandscape]