Endangered Species Sheer Panels
by Connie Bransilver
I have always been a conservationist and one who photographs to share the beauty and importance of nature and the place humans have in it. Because I also believe that carrots are more effective than sticks, I focus on the allure of nature.
For 25 years I have documented conservation. My passions have been primates—lemurs of Madagascar, chimpanzees of Africa and orangutans of Indonesia. Commissioned by a variety of NGOs, what was always critical for me was the human factor. My last assignment was for UNESCO-Asia covering World Heritage Sites. Beyond the iconic images, I was to understand and expose the effect of the local population on the site and the effect of the site and its visitors on the local population.
In the photography world in general, a monumental shift in the business of nature photography brought us to the point where we are today. High quality digital equipment has allowed everyone to become good photographers. Couple that with the demise of the print medium and the real estate crash (fewer new walls to decorate) required me to reinvent my business.
My latest project is a new twist on the human element in conservation, but it’s in my backyard—the unique and often maligned Everglades ecosystem. “Guardians of the Everglades” emerged, celebrating the leaders of Everglades conservation and exposing the majesty of the Everglades itself.
What has evolved is a multimedia traveling exhibition featuring 12 life-sized oil portraits of the conservationists by my husband, Renaissance-style portrait artist Nicholas Petrucci; a documentary film directed by award-winning cinematographer Sandy Cannon-Brown; and an art book to be published by ORO Editions. I am producing all of it—raising the money, traveling the exhibition, guiding and participating in the videography for the documentary, and writing the book.
As part of the traveling exhibition, a soft impressionistic-like series of sheer banners portrays the reality of extinction. Our goal is to entertain, educate and motivate everyone to become Guardians.
While Nicholas paints each portrait (seven are completed) for the exhibition, other elements include my high-definition photographs of endangered or threatened species or habitats. Some are printed on aluminum and two dozen more are reproduced on eight-foot by four-foot diaphanous banners. The sheer banners present a tactile encounter with the fragility and ephemeral nature of the endangered species—tiny orchids now eight feet high, challenging the viewer to notice; Florida panthers at rest; a turtle hatchling; a spoonbill; and, ultimately, a little girl in a pink dress unaware of her precarious future. These intimate color photos complement Clyde Butcher’s massive, detailed black-and-white prints, which are also on display.
Guardians of the Everglades will officially open in the fall of 2014, though six preview exhibitions have been shown since December 2011, including a diorama at the Audubon Gala in Naples, Florida, with the live Guardians stepping out from behind their portraits to talk about their work. We aim to build broad public support so people can see the Everglades, like the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, as the precious American treasure it is.