Boat-billed Flycatcher (Megarynchus pitangua)

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Artist Statement


To create his paintings, John James Audubon shot birds and contorted their bodies into dramatic poses by wiring and pinning them onto boards. The quirky and flamboyant postures he used were not immediately popular with the scientific community, but today they are renowned. It was Roger Tory Peterson who pioneered the idea of a field guide. His guides highlight observable marks, pointed out by carefully placed arrows, which allow for the identification of birds at a distance. Peterson painted thousands of systematic illustrations of birds in static poses based on photographs, bird skins and field observations. Field guides have allowed hobbyists, artists and scientists to identify birds with binoculars instead of a shotgun. Ornithologists now use mist nets. These nearly invisible nets are set up like fences and function as huge spider webs, catching unsuspecting birds. The researcher carefully extracts the bird from the net. Each bird is measured, aged, sexed and banded with an individually numbered anklet. Then the bird is released. I photographed these birds while they are caught in mist nets, moments before the ornithologist extracts them. Here, the birds inhabit a fascinating space between our framework of the bush and the hand. It is a fragile and embarrassing moment before they disappear back into the woods, and into data.


Todd R. Forsgren | See All Editions


Todd R. Forsgren is a photographer based in Washington, D.C. In his photographs, he examines themes of ecology, environmentalism and perceptions of landscape, while striving to strike a balance between art history and natural history. Born in 1981 and raised in Ohio, Todd went on to receive a bachelor's degree in biology and visual art from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, in 2003. In 2011, he earned a master's degree in photography from J.E. Purkyne University in Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic. He also studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, was a 2006 artist-in-residence at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology and was a 2008 Fulbright Fellow in Mongolia.