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One Picture

One Picture


Photographer: Jean Luc Mylayne
Subject: European robin
What: From Jean Luc Mylayne, Plate No. 36
When: October 1990 –February 1993
Where: Bordeaux, France
Camera: 8x10 view camera with specially designed filters


Right on Time

French artist Jean Luc Mylayne has chased Europe’s and North America’s most ordinary birds for more than 30 years with his 8x10 view camera. And while Mylayne asserts that he is not your conventional wildlife photographer, he has one thing in common with the late Eliot Porter, whose 1960s color portraits of forest-nesting songbirds—made with high-speed strobe lights on 4x5 film—are still bird photography’s gold standard. That’s persistence. Porter once waited two weeks for cerulean warbler eggs to hatch in a treetop nest, then erected a 40-foot tower for his platform. Mylayne’s vibrant image of a European robin was created over 28 months as he returned time and again until the bird—his “actor”—posed exactly as envisioned in this composed scene.

This is as close as you’ll come to a traditional bird photograph among 104 large plates in Jean Luc Mylayne, the artist’s first major book (Twin Palms). Mylayne has conceived some 50 lenses that allow him to explore multiple focal points in a single exposure, and often the bird itself is deliberately out of focus, blurred, or an insignificant spot on the landscape, as you actually might view it in nature. You’re compelled to look for it and study the scene, unlike with a Porter print, where the bird seems to literally fly off or into the photograph in stop-action sharpness and brilliant color.—Les Line
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