Widely celebrated for his color landscape photography, the images Eliot Porter made of birds every spring for more than 40 years, are less known. A new exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art highlights these rarely seen photographs.
On view through May 10, 2020, “Eliot Porter’s Birds” features over 30 photographs and archival objects presented alongside excerpts from Porter’s extensive publications, letters and journals, “giving visitors an opportunity to feel a direct connection with the artist,” writes the museum in the press release.
Porter’s commitment to capturing avians in their natural habitat was grounded in a desire to set a new artistic model for bird photography. Porter began making color photographs in 1939, well before his fellow photographers took the medium seriously, so that he could more accurately capture birds. To finesse the exact hues of the feathered animals as they soared, flapped, rested and fed their young, Porter used a complex dye imbibition printing process that rivals the capabilities of today’s digital printing technologies.
Working before the wide use of telephoto lenses and flash synchronization, he also pushed the limits of photographic technology by using car headlamps, light-beam sensors and portable generators, to record the activities of birds at home, in their nests. His inventive camera setup is demonstrated in the exhibition.
“This engaging exhibition is made possible by Eliot Porter himself,” said Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director of the museum. In 1990, Porter bequeathed his archives to the Carter. Covering the breadth of his career, the collection includes 84,000 original color transparencies, 4,400 black-and-white-negatives, and thousands of prints, papers and books.
The exhibition, said John Rohrbach, the Carter’s Senior Curator of Photographs, “reveals the remarkable lengths” Porter went through to create “exquisite photographs” of the birds he admired and adored.
“Eliot Porter’s Birds”
Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Through May 10, 2020
The Songbird Whisperer
New York City Pigeons on a Pedestal