Background: Black and White Birds
Birds were Porter's first and most beloved subject. He started photographing them in black and white at age twelve, shortly after being given his first camera. While he cut back from the practice during high school and college, he took it up again by the early 1930s. His general routine was to photograph birds around their nests about a week after the young had hatched, using a 4-by-5-inch view camera and two or three lamps placed at various angles about two feet away. At times, this process required construction of an elaborate platform or scaffold to bring his equipment to nest height or sometimes even the lowering of a branch in stages down to ground level. His goal was to update the renowned bird artist John James Audubon by clearly presenting each species in a pleasing composition. The collection's 270 gelatin silver print portraits encompass sixty-one species. The images mainly present Eastern shore birds and songbirds.

Return to Photographs