Birds in TREES: The annual LOOK3 Festival Of The Photograph begins

Workers hang images of wildlife photographer Tim Laman's work to open the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. Image: Tami Keaveny Workers hang images of wildlife photographer Tim Laman’s work to open the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. Image: Tami Keaveny

One of Charlottesville’s most anticipated springtime events began today with the hanging of the LOOK3 TREES exhibit.  The installation has kicked off Charlottesville’s LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph since it began in 2007.

“It’s really our coming out party,” said LOOK3’s managing director, Andrew Owen.

LOOK3 attracts an estimated attendance of 25,000 artists and observers from around the globe, and the heart of the festival occurs June 12-15 with gallery shows, projections and workshops throughout the Downtown area.

This year’s featured TREES photographer is Tim Laman, a field biologist whose work with New Guinea’s birds of paradise is strung among the branches of the willow oaks lining the Downtown Mall.

Beyond the bird puns, it’s appropriate that these photos hang from treetops, as Laman spent eight years precariously climbing trees and hiding in the blinds to document the birds in their natural habitat. The striking birds are descended from crows, and are regionally specific to New Guinea. They have evolved an extraordinary, showy plumage used to attract mates and ward off predators, and Laman’s photography captures it vividly.

“When Laman’s work was featured in National Geographic in January, we knew this was the perfect exhibit for the Downtown Mall,” Owen said. The images were selected from 39,000 shots amassed by Laman over nearly a decade, and were narrowed down to 40 pictures by a team of curators chosen by Owen’s organization.

This year’s exhibit offers an enhanced experience through an audio tour provided by The Nature Conservancy, a festival sponsor. Caption cards posted at each image provide photo information, and a QR-code that will link smartphone users to audio clips about the images and interviews with Laman.

Bill Kittrell, The Nature Conservancy’s director of conservation in Virginia, views the collaboration as a fortuitous match. “In the sense of showing the beauty and the art and the behavior of the birds —and [the Conservancy] working in New Guinea to help protect and preserve the habitat for the birds—it’s a really good link between the science and the art.”

Kittrell hopes the opportunity will highlight local concerns. “It’s a great way to talk about conservancy in New Guinea, but also a great way to talk about conservation right here in Virginia, and all the birds we have here in Charlottesville.”

Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall visitors can enjoy this window into paradise through July 7.