Kristin Sjaarda is a photographer based in Toronto, Ontario, where she lives with her husband and three sons. Kristin is known for her large scale, lush photographs of flowers and fauna of her garden and local, urban environment. Photos from this series have been exhibited internationally. Kristin also has designed silk scarves based on the photographs. She has taught workshops on her style of natural light photography and floral arrangement.
“This series of photographs takes as its the inspiration the paintings of the Dutch golden age which were created in the spirit of optimism for a new age of scientific discovery and exploration. The series I have created is offered as more of a cautionary tale that alludes to what we are losing in bird and plant diversity due to urban sprawl and the same march of progress that the Dutch championed in the 17th century. My photographs feature birds that have died during spring and fall migration due to window collisions with downtown office buildings. The birds have been collected and tagged by volunteers and used for research and artistic projects by the ROM's ornithology department.
In such photographs as “Poppies and Blackburnian Warblers”, “Peonies and Baltimore Oriole” and “Lilacs and Blue Buntings,” I have paired the birds with the flowers that would be in bloom during migration. In this way, I am creating a portrait of a particular time and place that is both rooted and fleeting. I have often had to wait an entire year before I have the chance to use elements specific to season and location.
I first met the ROM ornithologist at an event at the ROM where all the dead birds collected from the spring and fall migrations were laid out on the floor of the rotunda to demonstrate to the visiting public how many birds, some 2500, die due to collisions with office building windows. I attend this event every year and am stunned by the sheer number of avian deaths. Anyone who happens to stumble upon this display is moved both by the individual fragile beauty of each bird but also by the tragedy and helplessness of the entire display. Mark Peck, Manager, Schad Gallery of Biodiversity, Royal Ontario Museum, has said that my photographs give the birds a “second life” as works of art.
This issue is a pertinent one as climate change and urban sprawl threaten bird species everywhere -- making it a subject of both national and international discussion. By using modern photography that echoes a historic style of painting, I am matching a contemporary technique to a critical contemporary concern. My goal is to hook viewers with a compelling, dynamic image that tells a story about our relationship to nature in the city.”
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