In 2008, in my first year of grad school in Philadelphia, I visited the Philly zoo. I had been painting pictures of animals I had photographed at the North Carolina Zoo, and I had the urge to check out familiar terrain. The Philly zoo does not have the wide open spaces of the NC zoo, but they did have one interesting thing I had never seen in NC; animals in the trees above my head.
Golden Lion tamarin monkeys are native to coastal Brazil and they are extremely rare. In the summers the tamarins at the Philly zoo are given the opportunity to free range in an area of the zoo. They wear radio collars and spotters on the ground keep an eye on them. They told me that the tamarins don't head for the hills because they have everything they need in the small wooded area. I took some pictures on them, and later even did a painting of one. And then I moved on to slightly more common animals. Pigeons.
Years after grad school, and with a few artistic detours under my belt, I decided to reexamine the rare. In order to start learning about the world of endangered species, I read Diane Ackerman's book The Rarest of the Rare; Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds. I have been a fan of Ackerman's writing since I read her book Natural History of the Senses, still one of my favorite books. In Rarest of the Rare, Ackerman describes several expeditions into endangered species and what goes into saving them. The scientific techniques, breeding programs, and reintroduction efforts involved in keeping these animals in existence are truly remarkable. It was striking to understand how much these creatures owe their continued existence to us, once you get past the fact that we were the ones who pushed them to the edge of extinction.
One of the animals Ackerman explored was the Golden Lion tamarin. With that connection to my past experience to the animal, I started down an artistic path that eventually led to the Natura Technica series. The Golden Lion tamarin print was the first image I created, and the first to start the process of perfecting my hand transfer digital print technique.
Many of the images in the Natura Technica series have a story like this. Some connection between an experience, a story or a book helped select many of the best images. I plan to share some of those connections in the blog.