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Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Natureby Paul Martineau
Synopses & Reviews
"A contemporary of Ansel Adams, Porter (1901 — 1990) took many black and white photographs, but he embraced color when it was still considered too commercial to be artistic. In both formats, Porter's work is notable for its focus on nature's details. In one print, a bird clutches nest-building materials in its beak while clinging with long claws to a ravaged tree. Like Adams, Porter was also meticulous, producing fewer than 10 photos per day, while spending hours setting up the exposure, constructing towers next to trees to capture birds in their nests, or, in the color lab, bringing out the finer tones. As a result, his images are rich and saturated with movement and detail, qualities that this book by Getty curator Martineau (Herb Ritts: L.A. Style) honors by simply getting out of the way. In one plate, the red leaves of an autumn tree emerge from the dark of the forest as if they were an illusion. A brief introduction, white space, short captions, and an emphasis on quality reproduction let the artist's work stand for itself. Arranged thematically, each photograph in this very fine book evolves to the next, so that the reader has a true sense of the artist's preoccupations. 80 color and 30 b&w illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Known for his exquisite images of birds and landscape, Eliot Porter (American, 1901–1990) was a pioneer in the use of color photography. His work also became a powerful visual argument for environmental conservation. Trained as a medical doctor and possessing a scientist's gift for close observation, Porter explored new ways of depicting nature, building blinds in trees so he could study his avian subjects at closer vantage, and producing landscape images that capture both pristine forest and ragged river canyons with equal force and brilliance.
Initially encouraged by the groundbreaking photographers Ansel Adams and Alfred Stieglitz, Porter went on to produce a body of work all his own. His 1962 Sierra Club book In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, with its images grouped by season and accompanied by quotations from Henry David Thoreau, transformed the concept of nature photography books. Ultimately, Porter's photographs came to the attention of Congress and led to the passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, the foundational law in wilderness management today.
Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature contains 110 images from the collections of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser; the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; and of the J. Paul Getty Museum, along with an essay by Paul Martineau that discusses Porter's life and the innovations he brought to the practice of photography.
About the Author
Paul Martineau is an associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and author of Herb Ritts: L.A. Style (Getty, 2012) and Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance (Getty, 2009). Michael Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club.
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