Chocolate Sauce as a Medium to Spread Environmental Awareness on Behalf of Birds' Suffering Amidst BP Oil Spill

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Katherine Bish decided to take her art and transform it into a message of environmental awareness regarding the devastation wrought by the BP oil spill disaster. “What it must feel like to be a bird covered in oil,” she queried. In this instance she hoped the old cliché of a picture being worth a thousand words would ring true and that those behind the decisions leading up to and ultimately the fallout of the oil spill as well as people willing to reach out would hark these words. “I figured we’ve gotta do something here,” she avowed, “I mean it’s giving these animals a voice. And it’s supposed to make you realize that we need to get down there and help them.”

Bish has been a photographer for years yet it wasn’t until she saw the oil drenched wildlife and carnage caused by the oil leakage that she decided to turn her artistic medium into a fight on behalf of environmental awareness. She looked at the animal characters depicted at the sight of the spill and transformed them into human analogies; what would it look like if a tiny child was covered in oil and fighting to survive? The ultimate images were striking and it takes the perception of the full magnitude of lives lost, the lives of birds and wildlife, to new heights. In fact, as word spread about her project more and more volunteers began to show up to pose for the shoot. “I feel not only for the people in the region but especially the animals,” voices Tim Pisani as one of the models.

To get the pictures for her set-ups Bish took human models and doused them in chocolate sauce; albeit much more benign than oil of course but visually the difference is unforeseen. What is then created are photos reminiscent of almost wartime endeavors and the facades of her models are haunting. What Bish hoped to produce was just as such and to hit it home that while these flocks of birds and other innocent creatures may lack human intellect that by no means diminishes their plight and by paralleling that into what it would look like had these animals taken human form the set of photographs speaks volumes. In fact in posing with the chocolate sauce the artist noticed that even the people she was focusing her lens on took on the melancholy of the incident, “You just feel kind of smothered and miserable at that point and I can get that in their face. It gives you this emotion. It touches your heart to see this.”

True to form these images do stick with a person and they live up to her initial cause to spread environmental awareness. Yet at the same time the pictures also add a touch of the suffering of the people at the sight of the BP oil spill as well; these individuals may not literally be covered in oil as the wildlife are, but they are metaphorically so as their lives are dripping with the repercussions this obscene ‘accident’ has caused. They will no doubt have to alter their own livelihoods and their homes are far from recovering from the fractures. So in essence Bish’s preaching of environmental awareness could as well me a message of social consciousness as well.

Her shoot is not yet complete but Bish is planning an exhibit with the hopes to continue to reach others with her message of environmental awareness, “Eventually I’m going to have to gather up all the images I like and start showing them to the world.” For more information you can visit her site: and here are more pictures from her photo shoot.

Photo credit: Katherine Bish and KSDK