Attempted escape

Sometimes it's tough for a photographer to reconcile personal beliefs and doing her job impartially.

Melanie Stetson Freeman - staff

I tried to prepare myself for the pig farm. As an animal lover and vegetarian, I knew it was going to be tough to see, but we were doing a story on one of the men who work there, part of a series on the younger generation in Russia. This agricultural worker at a new, state-of-the-art farm would contrast with the chic guy who worked at President Vladimir Putin's party headquarters in Moscow.

In order to enter the "clean area" where the pigs live, we had to undress, shower, and wear the farm's clothes and boots. Once inside, the sounds and smell were overwhelming. It was hard to breathe, even though this is a modern farm with good conditions and ventilation. I saw hundreds of pigs in cages where they could stand or lie down but not turn around. I cried. I knew I had to pull myself together. It took a few minutes, but I did it. Putting personal feelings aside is part of my job. It has happened to me before; it will happen again.

I spent the next five hours in the middle of the pigs. They're smart animals. A few figure out how to wiggle out of their cages so they can wander around until they're wrangled back into their spaces. I was happy to see that the workers were good to them. This little piggy got caught by my camera in the act of trying to squeeze under the fence – and she knows it. I loved meeting these characters.

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