According to Wikipedia, “an environmental portrait is a portrait executed in the subject’s usual environment, such as in their home or workplace, and typically illuminates the subject’s life and surroundings. The term is most frequently used as a “genre of photography.”
At Media Solutions, our environmental portraits often take place in a lab, classroom or clinic. Compared to a traditional studio portrait taken against a plain background, environmental photographs convey a sense of place and time and even the subject’s character as they interact with their environment.
The subjects of the photos do not need to be human, they can be of any living organism. For animals in the wild, the environment is the natural world in which each day is a struggle to survive another day and hopefully live long enough to raise the next generation.
When I’m not taking environmental portraits at Media Solutions, I enjoy the challenge of photographing birds in their environment and becoming part of that environment. It takes a certain level of patience to be sure, not to mention giving up control. I can’t tell my subjects to rearrange their feathers, pull another snail out of the muck, but at a slower speed and from a slightly different angle, or “Don’t move – just one more!”
My grandmother was an avid birder and photographer in Fond du Lac during my youth and I’ve been fortunate enough to inherit those interests and more importantly, to retain the respect and wonder for all living creatures that she instilled in me.
Above, are five photos I’ve taken in the Madison area. Can you match the names of the birds below with their photo?
1. Tree Swallow
3. Eastern Meadowlark
5. Red-tailed Hawk