Photo taken by Jan Austin Smith, a 27-year-old man living in Northern California. His mother, a Psychiatrist, has depression, and his closest aunt is bipolar, so he has been around people with mental health issues his whole life, and has a tremendous amount of compassion for them. He thinks that mental issues are so maligned in the dominant culture, it is tragically sad. Jan has also suffered from depression and anxiety himself, which has been hugely exacerbated by disabling chronic nerve pain in his knees, and 5 knee surgeries. On his website, TheRewildWest, he writes about human, Earth, and animal liberation, as well as displays his beloved nature photography. He’s also a novelist, and editor/book reviewer for the Green Theory and Praxis Journal.
About this photo: “This photograph was taken at what we call San Quentin beach, part of the San Francisco Bay. It is a gorgeous, peaceful place literally 200 YARDS from one of the most violent and notoriously vile prisons in the country, and here we are having a lovely time less than half a mile away! The ALF stands for the Animal Liberation Front; they believe animals are not ours to exploit, so they free them from places of abuse like vivisection laboratories, fur farms, and factory farms, as well as inflict economic damage on these inherently cruel industries. Given that I spent 22.5 months in prison for marijuana trafficking out of financial desperation, I know whats it’s like to be in a cage. I have done undercover stockyard investigations, so I’ve seen the cruelty firsthand. I feel tormented by my physical and mental illnesses, but I have it fantastic compared to these animals–I feel empathy for them, I imagine what kind of misery they must be feeling. Having just gotten out of prison a few months before this picture and getting the tattoo, I wanted to show my support for the ALF, given that these courageous and compassionate acts are inherently illegal and many members are in prison, and former members have done prison time. Since I am disabled, there is little that I can do except use my voice–for the voiceless animals. I try to bring about awareness of their suffering with my writing and photography”.