Shannon Johnstone & Jane Casteline

Creativity, 2023, 2019, 2014, Grantee Link >

Shannon (left) has received three CAF grants.

Picturing Pigs

In 2023, she, along with photographer Jane Casteline, received a grant for a new photography project, “Picturing Pigs”: three billboards placed in Duplin County, North Carolina, highlighting images of pigs depicted as sentient, loving creatures rather than their more common portrayal as food. These billboards and corresponding website aimed to shift the paradigm regarding pigs being sentient beings, and Shannon and Jane hoped that the evocative photos would encourage many people to stop eating meat in pursuit of a kinder world.

Shannon and Jane met with resistance for their project. The Charlotte Observer produced a special feature on “Picturing Pigs” titled “Disappearing Pigs: NC Photographers Discover Influence of Pork Industry.” Shannon and Jane are currently working on a documentary film about the obstacles they encountered as they advocated for pigs. You can read more information about the project on their website.

The billboard company estimates that 588,000 people drove by the billboards in the four months that they were paid for. (As of December 2023, the billboards are still up, three months beyond their contracted end.)

To learn more about Shannon and Jane’s current work, please read the article linked here.

All Creatures Great and Small

In 2019, Shannon received a grant to curate an art exhibition called “All Creatures Great and Small,” which featured the work of five female artists, including herself, Lee Deigaard, Jo-Anne McArthur, Traer Scott, and L.A. Watson. Each individual took a different approach (fine art, journalism, video installation, and commercial work), but the heart of their work explored the lives, traumas, triumphs, and most of all, the individuality and importance of a few of the many non-humans with whom we share the planet. The CAF grant enabled Shannon to host six outside programming events in association with the exhibition, including workshops, panel discussions, and community events. It also helped fund a full-color exhibition catalog with the artwork, artist statements, and an essay by art historian Keri Cronin. The exhibition was very successful, and received testimonials from students discussing a shift in mindset towards nonhumans as a subject matter. The exhibition received publicity from Lenscratch and FeatureShoot, two prominent photography blogs. Shannon noted that it was great to bring together an exhibition of female photographers who work on behalf of nonhumans, and that the exhibition challenged her and made her look at the world in a more inclusive and compassionate way. Shannon writes:

Animal advocacy and ethical non-human animal representation are not typically themes explored with depth or breadth within fine arts. Our goal is to expand aesthetic inquiry and engage in the larger ongoing discourse on our relationship with animals. We are curating an art exhibition exploring moral considerations toward animal representation.

Breeding Ignorance

In 2014, Shannon received a grant to continue her work on “Breeding Ignorance,” a series of photographs on animals in shelters, which was renamed the “North Carolina Rural Shelter Project.” In collaboration with the North Carolina Chapter of Humane Society of the United States, the series highlighted the work being done by open admission animal shelters in rural parts of North Carolina. Shannon continued to feature stories of homeless pets with a photography project tentatively titled “Homeless to Home,” in which she rode along with Animal Control Officers in different counties of North Carolina to follow the journey of homeless pets, from being picked up by Animal Control to being moved through the complicated and sometimes bumpy foster and rescue system—often crossing state lines.  

Mary Shannon Johnstone received her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and MFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. She is the recipient of numerous awards including “Pause, To Begin” artist, Critical Mass Top 50 (2009, 2010), and Honorable Mention in Lens Culture’s 2010 International Exposure Awards. Her project “Landfill Dogs” became a 2013 Critical Mass Finalist, received “Best in Show” at “Puppy Love” exhibition in Georgia, and was one of the 2014 Review Santa Fe 100. “Landfill Dogs” was featured in national and international exhibitions and magazines, was featured on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer in December 2013, and on CNN’s website in November 2014. Johnstone is currently a tenured Associate Professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. Her website can be found here: