Momatiuk & Eastcott "Clouds"

Yva Momatiuk & John Eastcott


September 8 – October 14, 2012

We have been photographing clouds for years.

As long as we can remember, we watched them form and dissipate
glow with a multitude of hues and roll heavy with storms
move with the wind and stand still for hours.
We felt the energy of these vast cloudscapes
towering cumulus formations, iridescent waves of lenticular clouds
and feathery cirrus fans.

The sky is a wilderness, a celestial refuge.
The clouds we observe are volatile and ever changing
visible to us but out of reach.
We cannot harness, own, or develop them.
They retain the clarity of their structure of fine water droplets
and crystalline ice particles suspended in the atmosphere
at altitudes reaching up to several miles.
They create entire skyscapes, half of the landscape we see
and challenge us to look up and watch them unfold.

To make our images, we work in open spaces filled with weather.
And while we photograph the clouds moving above grasslands and mountains
ice fields and canyons, forests and deserts,
we experience the weather which creates them.
We are buffeted by wind and get chilled to the bone
swelter in heat and hunker in heavy rain
feeling the next-to-the skin sense of being there.
This part of the process is what makes it real for us:
our physical presence in nature and the sense of being fully alive.

Our process leads us to fundamental questions about visual experience
and perception of what we see.
How do we view a scene while looking at it?
How do we remember it — for days or years — after we leave?
How do our memories reflect images
taken at the time when we saw the scene?
And how can the photographic medium be used to encompass
and communicate what we see — the entire half dome
of the cloudscape, or its most exquisite fragment —
and yet stay in the realm of a still photograph?

To answer these questions, we use various photographic techniques.
We explore the clouds with long telephoto lenses
and with extreme wide angle ones.
We create images showing the moment in time
as well as the transition in the constantly changing sky.
Like chapters of a book, they follow a story, a time line, a movement.

We use our medium to explore and expand the limits of our perception
and encourage the viewer to pause and focus momentarily
on one cloudscape
before moving on and taking in another.
We often show no land, allowing the clouds to float freely as they do
unanchored, ephemeral and fleeting.

– Yva Momatiuk & John Eastcott, 2012

Yva Momatiuk and John Eastcott are internationally acclaimed photographers of nature. Nomadic for years, they settled in the Catskills in 1979 but continue to explore the rhythm, the light and the essence of remote and mysterious wild places.

A New Zealander, Eastcott published his first book of photographs at 17, earned a degree in photography in London, and met Yva while hitchhiking near the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. Together, they took off for the North, fell in with Dogrib and Slavey fishermen catching whitefish on Great Slave Lake, and published their first images under shared photographic credits.

Later Momatiuk and Eastcott proposed a story idea to National Geographic and spent five months in the Canadian Arctic with a group of Inuit hunters. Soon they were authoring magazine stories and pictorials for National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon, BBC Wildlife, Stern, The Observer, and Nature Canada. Yva and John, married by then, became a couple of roaming “professional bums”, to use their words, following their curiosity and desire to see, feel, and learn.

They have traveled and photographed in New Zealand, Poland, Slovakia, Canada, Afghanistan, Chile, and Argentina. They followed the mustangs of the American West and created a book of images and a Smithsonian cover story. They spent many seasons in Alaska, the American Southwest, and river swamps of the South. They returned to the Canadian Arctic, explored pampas of Patagonia, the outback of Australia, the savannah of Africa, and the Pribilof Archipelago in the Bering Sea.

Momatiuk and Eastcott have published four books, High Country (1980), Mustang (1996), This Marvellous Terrible Place: Images of Newfoundland and Labrador (1998) which also became a theatrical publication, and In a Sea of Wind: Images of the Prairies (1991), as well as two children’s books, Face to Face with Wild Horses and Face to Face with Penguins, both published in 2009 by the National Geographic Society.

They are recipients of awards from the National Press Photographers Association Pictures of the Year, BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Nature’s Best and National Wildlife magazine competitions, and the annual award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation for excellence in still photography dedicated to environmental issues. Their images were represented in several National Geographic shows in Washington, DC, and in BBC exhibits in Natural History Museum in London, England.