Artists take on The Smaller Majority

Okawango reed frog by Pine Roehrs

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.

Ball blattodean by Scott Severance
Red-eyed tree frog by Amelia Bliss Sikes
Monkey frog by Scott Severance
Satanic gecko by “sengkelat
Another take on the satanic gecko by Sharlena Wood
A stunning stained glass window made for the Rama Exhibition

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Well, I personally see my own nature photography as primarily an artistic endeavor, but I often find myself coming to answer the question, “What is art?” with a fairly simple response: it is the celebration of beauty and truth. Of course that is an expansive and somewhat difficult question to answer (conclusively, at any rate), but your photography certainly fulfills the measures of my answer.

    I will say macrophotography I think, for many people, allows a previously inaccessible window into “something very different, often revealing aspects of nature that cannot be simply seen – they must be felt,” to quote you, Piotr. Especially with the tiny, obliviated worlds humans tend not to recognize or acknowledge. In this case the feeling is realized a great deal in the simple act of seeing.

    In any event, I like the artwork here! Very nice :)

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