Last night I saw the amazing David Byrne and St. Vincent in concert, which made me wonder once again what it means to be an artist. It is a person, I have come to believe, who holds a joystick to your endocrine system, and with a flick of a wrist holding a pick (or a pen, a brush, a bow) can control the flow of hormones and neurotransmitters in your body. Or, as we call it, emotions. They do so by altering our sense of reality, and moving us to places we wish we could go to. During the concert I could feel waves of dopamine and oxytocin rising and falling, accompanied by an occasional ripple of endorphins in my brain. Or maybe I was just dehydrated.
Nature photography, on the other hand, is about capturing and documenting reality. Of course, a photograph is never a perfectly objective representation of the scene and, simply by virtue of placing a curved piece of glass between the eye and the world, a photographer distorts the image that our brain then processes and interprets. Clearly, nature photographers can also be artists, and many go a long way beyond simply freezing a moment. But the intention of being faithful to the real world is what most nature photographers consider their guiding principle, and we pride ourselves on preserving fragments of the world as it really was in that one point in time. But to an artist, reality is just the starting point. The image that a nature photographer has so unerringly documented may become a seed of something very different, often revealing aspects of nature that cannot be simply seen – they must be felt.
I am quite proud that a number of artists have used some of my photographs as an inspiration to produce pretty amazing pieces of art. It must be noted that all these artists explicitly acknowledge using my photos as their source of inspiration, some even asked me if I would allow them to do so (alas, this is not always the case, as Alex Wild demonstrates on his blog.)
Here are a few of my favorite pieces.