Eliot Porter’s Birds

Eliot Porter (1901–1990), Purple Gallinule, Everglades National Park, Florida, March 2, 1954
January 4–July 5, 2020
Second floor

Eliot Porter (1901–1990) set the model for today’s nature photography. While he is internationally celebrated for his colorful renderings of the natural world, Eliot Porter’s Birds highlights his equal, career-long focus on photographing birds. More than thirty photographs and archival objects are presented alongside excerpts from the artist’s extensive writings about his activities, giving visitors an opportunity to feel a direct connection with the artist. 

Porter photographed birds almost every spring for more than fifty years, deeply appreciating their colors, variety, and ability to fly. He sought from the start to set a new artistic model for bird photography that aligned with the great lithographs of the nineteenth-century artist-naturalist John James Audubon. Visitors will be able to experience how Porter pushed the limits of photographic technologies through a display of his personally designed camera outfit. Also on view are his research notes for locating and recording his subjects, and a display showing how he went about making his exquisite prints.  

This exhibition is made possible by Eliot Porter himself, who bequeathed his professional archives to the Carter in 1990. This collection includes approximately 7,500 original dye imbibition prints and 1,800 gelatin silver photographs covering the length and breadth of his career; his negatives, slides, and transparencies; his manuscripts for more than twenty books; and his correspondence and papers.