Our relationship with the natural world has shifted considerably along with our technological advances.
The drawings in Lascaux morphed into Egypt’s hieroglyphs; into Greece’s elaborately painted frescos and urns; into the Renaissance’s Nature morte.
But the more precise the depiction became, the more likely it was that the animal in question had to meet its demise in order to be immortalized.
John James Audubon, his predecessors and successors, were skilled taxidermists, because we all know that most birds don’t stay in one place long enough for the paint to dry. But in addition to having a keen eye and being a steady shot, Audubon had the desire to capture nature herself, not just the specific specimen. He was careful to set his models in the most lifelike poses possible, and he was so successful in his craft that we now have clear depictions of several species that no longer exist. Ironic perhaps. But he also identified 25 new species and a number of new sub-species.
The National Geographic Society first published its magazine in 1888, thirty-seven years after Audubon’s death, but it wasn’t until the early 1900s that they began to include what we would call Nature or Wildlife photography.
And this is where the world changed! Not in the beginning of course. In the beginning taking a photograph was nearly as labor intensive as capturing the image by hand. But as cameras improved the possibility of capturing a moment in time became more and more feasible. Without these advancements we would never experience the split second moment of take-off by Vijaykumar Thondaman’s Grey Heron, or the delicately fluttering wing of Milo Inman’s Diplacodes trivialis.
Frequently, Nature Photography is about being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, often it seems, we just get lucky. And the world and her teaming citizens seem to just stand still….