Wednesday, August 20, 2003

  Like other mainstream genres, contemporary wildlife photography serves primarily two purposes - mimesis and entertainment. Sporting the sleekest gear outfits, the largest telephoto lenses and capturing animals in the most vivid colors and crackling sharpness, professional wildlife photographers often arrive at images that are striking in representational precision. The creatures' feeding, preening, and mating practices are recorded in exhaustive detail and in hypersaturated, dazzling hues. I do enjoy the photography in publications like National Geographic and National Wildlife -- the high-quality images frequently feature fascinating creatures in unusual circumstances. Yet, despite demonstrated dedication, feats of patience and resourcefulness, and mastery of equipment, much of traditional animal photography does not extend into the realm of constructing visually inventive, exploratory images. Fortunately, this niche is filled with the work of those in pursuit of fine art photography. Here, I feel that the portrayed subjects are not showcased, appropriated, or scrutinized for appraisal, as they are, ultimately, in purely representational photography. Instead, they are considered, pondered, and engaged autonomously in image creation. Moreover, in place of attempts to classify and demystify the appearance and behavior of animals, photographers like those mentioned below exalt the enigmas connected with animals' existence and their place in the world, and let them reign.

Photograph by Liberto Macarro Photograph by Liberto Macarro

Liberto Macarro has a mighty and sumptuous portfolio of photographs. Equine mammals and bovines are present in most of them. Relationships of coexistence and codependence between animals and people are often explored. The two entities seem to complete and fill each other's space. Of particular interest are Macarro's photographs in the A fleur de peaux series -- those that explore the layering of landscape of an animal's highly textured body against the natural land and aerial landscapes.

"horse #21, art, texas", Burton Pritzker "cow #3, mason, texas", Burton Pritzker

Burton Pritzker's "Texas Rangeland" series consists of close-ups of grazing steers and horses, lit by chalky sunlight. In most cases, Pritzker comes up with ingenious, fresh ways to fill the frames. Notice how strategically the compositional elements are positioned, creating dynamic geometrical patterns and flow.

"Horse", Stuart Redler

Stuart Redler revels in the shapely minimalism of nature and architecture. His contraptions are often whimsical and invariably elegant. Several photographs of animals scattered around the "Africa" and "Europe" portfolios are tremendously graceful. (Link to Redler's work is courtesy of Conscientious.)

Another perspective on photographic images of cows, horses, sheep, etc., is offered by Aleksandras Macijauskas in his series "Village Markets". Unfortunately, little of his work is available online.

And for a different example of unusual depictions of animals Henry Horenstein's "Aquatic", "Canine" and "Creatures" photographs are recommended.

autumn ends--
a man strokes away
his horse's troubles
-- Kobayashi Issa (1819)

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