Cheryl Medow incorporates her passion for the natural world with her classical training in the arts and her skills with digital imaging to celebrate the sublime beauty of nature. Her long-term personal photographic series, Envisioning Habitat, An Altered Reality blends multiple landscape “hyper-realistic” images to create idealized habitats for the birds she has chosen to celebrate. For Medow, her final compositions serve as a reminder for viewers of the majesty of the natural world.
Since first exhibiting her photographs in 2006, first being published in 2007, Medow has received many industry accolades and her work is held within many public, private and institutional collections.
Most recently, images from Envisioning Habitat, An Altered Reality have been on public view at the Chicago Academy of Sciences, Peggy Notebaert Museum, Chicago, Illinois and the Wildling Museum, Solvang, California. A portfolio of Medow’s work was recently featured in ZOOM Magazine’s issue, #256: Collecting Photography, 2019.
When not traveling in pursuit of her artwork, Medow resides in Santa Barbara, California.
She is represented by PDNB Gallery in Dallas Texas.
Over the last two decades I have been photographing nature in search of a combination of image to landscape that matches my excitement about the world around me. I draw inspiration from the Hudson River School painters who with sketchpads set off into the field to gather the elements of their paintings which they later selectively combined in the studio. When someone went to the Hudson River looking for a particular painting’s location they couldn’t find it because it didn’t exist in the real world. The artist had reassembled nature to achieve a unique, amplifying effect, and that’s what I’m trying to do, too.
In my ongoing series Envisioning Habitat, I travel to Florida, Africa, and Central and South America to photograph birds that few ever have an opportunity to see in the wild. To record these majestic creatures in their habitat requires great patience and a 600 millimeter lens. The resulting shallow depth of field turns background into an unidentifiable blur—essentially creating portraits without context. Though these images are natural, the level of detail is decidedly not: in the real world for any number of reasons the naked eye cannot capture what the camera can. Initially I tried to restore the missing backgrounds with images taken from the original landscape, but then realized I could put my subjects anywhere, and when I altered the scale of the new environments and the subjects’ relative size in them something magical happened. The ordinary was transformed into the extraordinary; what was hidden in plain sight—the fantastical, fragile, timeless beauty of these creatures—became not just apparent, but visceral.
National Geographic has described my approach as “The art of birds, revealed through an altered reality.”