I first saw a photograph of a pig swimming to a boat while editing “Your Shot: The Animals We Love” for National Geographic. Among the thousands of submissions was a picture by an Englishwoman named Pepe Millard, who told me that she was 300 feet offshore in the Bahamas when a pig smelled her pizza and swam out to ask for a bite. After that, I lusted to find pigs that swim. So when I was asked by this magazine what my dream place to photograph was, I thought about the pigs and their island, Big Major Cay.
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For more than 30 years, I have photographed animals. The constant in my photographs is the blurred line between human and animal; it is important to me to portray animals as having their own thoughts and distinct personalities, as equal to humans. I never use them as props.
The pigs that live on Big Major Cay are semiferal. This is a tiny, uninhabited island, thickly forested. About a dozen pigs live here, and there are different stories about how that happened. Some say the pigs swam to the island after a shipwreck; others say sailors left them here, planning to come back and eat them. The family of the woman from whom I rented a cottage, on nearby Staniel Cay, said they brought their pigs to Big Major Cay in the early 1990s. Recently, they’ve become a kind of phenomenon. The comedian Amy Schumer posted a photograph on Instagram that showed her and her buddies (including Jerry Seinfeld) hanging out with one of the pigs on the island.
On Big Major Cay, I felt transported into a Henri Rousseau painting, or possibly a “Lord of the Flies” situation, when the tourists arrived. The pigs are very tolerant of people. They decide what their relationship with the tourists will be, depending on how the tourists react to them. These pigs expect to be fed. When I was there in February, one of the larger spotted pigs knew how to sit for food or whatever was in a bottle, even beer. A lot of people brought salad and bread. My guide, Dreko, said the pigs prefer anything to salad, as they already have that on the island, but being pigs, they ate it all.
In the end, watching the pigs was secondary to watching the people. People want this semiwild, unpredictable pig experience and can become unbelievably and uproariously happy, despite the fact that they probably ate bacon and eggs for breakfast.
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