Offbeat Video

By Jack Williams


 A curious abandoned photographer has brought to life the remains of what was once one of the world’s only HUMAN ZOOS.

 Based just outside Paris, France, the decaying ruins of pavilions and greenhouses may simply look like an abandoned park, but they hold a much darker backstory.

PIC FROM SEPH LAWLESS / CATERS

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 From 1899 until the late 1910s, the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale not only showcased rare and mysterious plants and animals of the world, but also people too.

 Visitors could view locals who had been taken from Africa, Asia and Oceania – a showcase depicting what life was like in French colonies before colonization.

 The “villages,” as they were known, were also meant to replicate where the likes of tropical and non-native plants had come from – a testing method to see if the likes of coffee and bananas could be grown in the French climate.

PIC FROM SEPH LAWLESS / CATERS

 This was the primary purpose of the park, Seph Lawless, the photographer who visited the remains last month, said, but as well as bringing items of interest to  botanists and historians, those overseeing the project would also bring people back from far-off lands.

 Today, the remains of these buildings still stand, as well as the likes of Chinese-style arches and an array of ponds.

 After World War I, the area was rarely used as an exhibition space until it was reopened again, in 2006.

PIC FROM SEPH LAWLESS / CATERS

Seph, 39, from Cleveland, Ohio, visited the area after his Twitter followers voted he should go there.

 The photographer said: “The ominous history surrounding it gave it an eerie feeling.

“It was like being inside a real-life episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror.

“It was just unbelievable to think that a place like this existed.”

PIC FROM SEPH LAWLESS / CATERS

 Some of the features that stood out, Seph said, included “the bars on the windows; the dwellings underneath the exhibits were like cages and creepy statues, seemingly out of place, hidden among the weeds.” 

The photographer, who also worked with a film crew on the haunting project, added: “As a known activist who uses art to promote awareness and activism, my goal with this project is to challenge the viewers to re-evaluate their views on race and immigration. 

“We’re currently witnessing widespread anti-immigrant racism at an alarming level and these images are a sobering reminder of just how bad it could be.”

You can follow Seph’s work online via: www.sephlawless.com/human-zoo-seph-lawless , and, on social media via: www.twitter.com/seph_lawless