Photographer captures the vulnerability in nature as it intersects with science

Ornithological Photographs explores our need to know, name and quantify diversity.

From the Series

As a species, humans are responsible for some of the greatest atrocities against nature. Our unfortunate victims include the environment, animals and other humans. But, we are also responsible for some of the greatest advancements, especially in the fields of science, innovation and research. Photographer Todd Forsgren captures this duality perfectly in the series, Ornithological Photographs. In it, he captures birds that have been caught in mist nets as part of scientific surveys and ornithological research. During this moment, the birds inhabit a fascinating conceptual space between our framework of “the bird in the bush and the bird in the hand.”

Forsgren explains that his interest in birdwatching dates back to his childhood. Like many birdwatchers, his goal was to record every species in the country in a personal life list. “My photographs are a reflection on this need to personally see, observe, and capture diversity,” he adds.

His photographs explore the human need to name, classify, and quantify diversity. In the photographs, the birds are neither free nor are they captive. They occupy a transitory moment in science.

“The captured creatures are embarrassed, fearful, angry, and vulnerable. I photograph these birds just before the ornithologist removes them from the nets to be weighed and measured—before the bird becomes ‘known’ by these concise numbers—this is a fragile moment,” he says. “The bird is then released, to disappear back into the woods and into data these scientists have gathered.”