If you visit the California Academy of Sciences, you might notice on their upper levels some gorgeous black and white photographs of animals. The prints are several feet across in square, full-frame format.
If you take one of the museum‘s behind-the-scenes tours, you’ll see even more of these beauties behind the scenes in the staff hallways.
After seeing these for years and slowly absorbing their quiet intensity, I decided to ask about them, because there is a noticeable lack of plaques both for details on the animals pictured or to credit the photographer.
The artist is Susan Middleton, former chair of the museum’s Department of Photography, and she has contributed her images to many books available at the museum and online.
There isn’t a lot on her website which describes itself as “a precursor to a formal website” and the majesty of the large prints is lost in digital-small-screen format, but you can get enough to imagine them.
I had purchased the book, “Evidence of Evolution,” several years ago and the images contained are truly lovely. Many/most/all of them are available on her website, though without the accompanying text by Mary Ellen Hannibal.
Learning some about Ms. Middleton, I can see a strong influence on her was her year spent working with Richard Avedon , one of my photography heroes. Refer to Ms. Middleton’s bio on her website but also on art.gov.us where some of the photographs you can see at the museum are available online.
If you like what you see on her website or in the books, I highly recommend a trip to see some of the large prints at the museum. Though they contain they have the flavor of the scientist (technical purity), they are truly museum-worthy, and not just natural history but would be equally at home in an art gallery.