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Put a Bird On It: The Natural Perspective by Judy Benson Lanier

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Birding enthusiasts from the Rogue Valley and beyond, take note! “The Natural Perspective: Photographs by Judy Benson Lanier,” a collection of strikingly vivid portraits of birds, fluttered through the Rogue Gallery and Art Center this past month. The exhibit contains images taken exclusively from Ms. Lanier’s photo safaris in Africa. There’s an augur buzzard, a leppet-faced vulture, an Abyssinian roller, a lilac-breasted roller, lovebirds, spur fowl, three kinds of eagles, a village weaver, crowned cranes, a white-throated bee-eater, and more—all with a level of focus and detail we’ve come to expect in a post-Planet Earth media environment.

For non-birders, like myself, the exhibit might be lacking in variety, and not just of content, but of style as well. Many of the portraits are taken from level or low-angle perspectives, they invariably feature a wildly colorful bird in sharp focus, usually perched in front of an out-of-focus background, and nearly all of them are photos printed on canvas. The aesthetic consistency ends up having a somewhat humorous effect—a pristine parade of gorgeous birds, whose puffy chests and shrewdly discerning eyes sometimes struck me as disarmingly pompous, proud, self-aware.

My favorite piece, however, stood out from the rest in nearly every way. A black and white print of storks in flight, these subjects had little-to-no detail—just little black wisps against a wide view. It almost seemed painted. Instead of reveling in the splendid color and proud posture of the birds, the storks’ odd forms express freedom, a splendor of motion.

The most common price tag for a piece is $200. The storks piece I like so much would have set me back $350. Lanier says that despite getting many compliments, nothing has sold. While on the one hand, information released by the Federal Reserve earlier this year showed that 40 percent of Americans couldn’t handle a $400 emergency, on the other hand, these birds are really vivid, absurdly colorful, and hypnotically endearing. Check out more of Lanier’s work at s2naturalimages.com.


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