How the Audubon House Inspired my “Birds of Vacation” Snapshots.

I spent last week in Key West, Florida–the sun, sea, and saltwater were such welcomed departures from the terrible New York winter we had this year. As I’ve looked over my trip photos, one theme has really emerged:

Birds.

Of course, I took many pictures of the Hemingway House and six-toed cats, as well as the requisite images of my travel companions smiling in posed clusters. But the birds appeared again and again. Both live birds, such as herons hanging out on the coastline and pelicans being fed by local fishermen, and etched ones, seen at the Audubon House.

John James Audubon visited the Florida Keys in 1832, and stayed on a property remarkably close to the current Audubon House while researching his “Birds of America” folio. The house boasts several prints from the original Havell edition, including this fantastic White Pelican:

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Also on view: an artist’s proof from this series, of the White-Crowned Pigeon, which I absolutely loved. This proof allowed Audubon to approve the direction of the print before the full edition was made, and reminds me how collaborative the process between artist and skilled printmaker can be.

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Inspired by Mr. Audubon, I found myself observing birds around the island. Whilst my approach to documenting them varied slightly (no birds were killed, no beautiful watercolors were made, and no science will be advanced!), I did understand how Key West could’ve energized his work. Three of my favorite snapshots:

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While I’m no Audubon, there is a real joy in following his lead and observing these creatures, however differently.