The blackpoll warbler and Harris's hawk, the gray catbird, the chipping sparrow, the tufted titmouse. In The Nature of Imitation, the first monograph from Yola Monakhov Stockton (1974, Russia), we see portraits of wild birds, whether caught for banding and release or those living in labs.
Rich in colour and texture, the images are precise without being scientific. Stockton places the birds against colourful backdrops, often leaving visible the edges of the paper or the clips holding the backdrop in place. The intent is clear: the images consciously inform us that we are not viewing nature, we are viewing a constructed scene, an artificial encounter created for the purpose of taking photographs. It’s not just that we are looking, we are asked to consider what it means that we are looking.
Accompanying the bird portraits are photos of woods, orchards and gardens, again sometimes showing the artist’s handiwork through the injection of coloured papers or other photographic props. The contrast is curious rather than political, spurred on also by the occasional inclusion of quotes from philosophers and poets. The resulting work is both sensuous and questioning, simultaneously expressing awe for the lush plumage of birds and the delicate strength of plantlife while also suggesting a certain disturbance at our attempts to contain and control nature.
The Nature of Imitation is available from Schilt Publishing.