Artist Spotlight — Kevin Horan: Goats as Philosophers

We’re excited to welcome Kevin Horan to our family of contributors! Kevin’s goat portraits have been winning the hearts of many and have been featured in The Washington Post, Treehugger, and The Huffington Post. We love the thoughtful quality of these beautiful images. Weaving the portraits together with quotes from philosophers from the ages seemed like a natural fit to create the I Am Goat wall calendar.

I Am Goat wall calendarHere’s an excerpt from Bleating Hearts Will Love These Soulful Portraits Of Goats by Maddie Crum of The Huffington Post:

A subject sits for the camera. His eyes are forlorn, his expression sorrowful. His long ears, covered in fur. A few milliseconds later, he’s run off to find food.

As an involved experiment testing the power of portraiture, photographer Kevin Horan decided to start taking pictures of farm animals ― namely, a crew of unruly goats.

“I thought I was going to photograph sheep,” Horan explained in an email with The Huffington Post. “I was originally inspired by the dozen sheep living across the lane from me when we moved to semi-rural Washington State. They greeted me with a whole range of voices, and I wondered if I might be able to make classic studio portraits of the different characters.”

But the sheep proved to be tough subjects. They wouldn’t sit still, and Horan was wary of letting them near his lighting equipment. So, he decided to search for a tamer lot and discovered a goat dairy farm nearby. His new animal subjects were used to sitting still; they were milked twice a day and had grown to be somewhat domesticated because of their frequent human interaction.

The result was a series of photos that revealed his goat subjects to be ― at least during their brief moments caught on camera ― expressive creatures. A heavily bearded goat looks contemplatively off into the distance. A stringy-haired goat faces the camera head-on, confrontationally.

“When people look at the pictures, they like to read a lot of human qualities into the goats. Whether that’s an accurate assessment or not, I can’t say,” Horan said. “The pictures do invite us in, however, to consider what’s going on in that other brain. Isn’t that what pet owners do almost constantly? When I had a dog, I would stare at her and ask, ‘Lulu, what are you thinking?’”

The act of photographing the goats was a tricky one for Horan. Bringing the goats to his studio proved impossible, so he set up equipment at farms and goat rescue sanctuaries to place his subjects in a makeshift studio. “Some will stay, some will not,” he said. Like photographing babies, he added, patience is key and coercion is useless. But, for Horan, the time investment is worth it.

“What I’m trying to do with this project is to look into these other creatures and see if I can find someone in there,” he said. “It’s not unlike human portraiture, where the goal is to capture gestures that lead us to some understanding. Yes, when treated seriously as portrait subjects, these animals definitely seem to have personalities.”


Kevin Horan is an artist based in Langley, Washington, USA. He is working on projects which look at animals as people, people as animals, and the planet as a very small place. His pictures are reality-based, and he enjoys finding the amazing hidden in the ordinary. His work from Chattel was selected for the Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 in 2014.

A recovering photojournalist, Horan has published his work in The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, LIFE, U.S. News & World Report, National Geographic,  and numerous other magazines and books.  Horan based himself in Chicago 1976-2006 and Whidbey Island since 2006, with assignments ranging from presidential campaigns to small-town life in Russia to development issues in the Amazon to following a dollar bill for a week for LIFE Magazine. He was Artist in Residence, Glacier National Park, September, 2004; staffphotographer for Chicago In The Year 2000; staffphotographer for the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times, 1977-1981. He received a degree in journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


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I Am Goat wall calendar

One thought on “Artist Spotlight — Kevin Horan: Goats as Philosophers

  1. Pingback: I Am Goat by Kevin Horan | Amber Lotus Publishing

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