by Catherine Randall
Nathan Collie’s photography is an unusual blend of print, texture, color, and dimension. His innovative use of gampi paper literally pushes the edges of typical photographic technique. This Japanese paper, which consists of kozo, gampi, and Mitsumata fibers gathered from native bushes, is traditionally used for pastel, watercolor, and liquid acrylic artwork—not as photographic paper. The effect, however, transforms simple photos into paper sculpture.
Perhaps Collie was predestined to become an innovative nature photographer. After all, his mother is an artist; his father is a songwriter. “I’ve been in a creative atmosphere all of my life,” Collie says. He caught the shutterbug in middle school.
“I have always loved nature,” Collie explains. Once he discovered photography he combined the two vocations. His fondness for birds as a central subject is attributed to his grandmother. “She was a birder and taught me about classifications.” Warner Parks, Radnor Lake, and his family farms became, and remain, his raison d’être.
The paper’s unique characteristics dictated his choice of medium. “The gampi paper is textured, and each thickness has a different tone.” The various fibers are visible. When it is glued to other paper for stability, he “pushes it around” until it accepts the furrows and folds.
One photograph, Yellow Billed Coo Coo, is a simple piece that captures the bird hidden on the branches of a sugar maple. The bold emerald leaves frame the tiny creature as the ripples of crinkled paper offer an erratic foundation that gives rise to the twigs and foliage, appearing two-dimensional.
The digital photos are printed straight to the specialty paper. The process is part luck and part precision manipulation. “Sometimes the ink from the printer on the gampi paper takes on a life of its own.” The fibers change tones and saturations and force the ink to buckle and dry in waves.
Black Throated Green Warbler plays with color more than other images. The paper’s sage green is a perfect backdrop to highlight the canary yellow of the head. In mid step, this bird appears delicate and weightless. The gampi itself in its shrinking creates the feeling of the swell of an air current under wing or swaying branch.
Collie’s creations have a conservation mission as well. In response to the dwindling habitat, Collie hopes his collection will promote and protect the bird population of Leiper’s Fork.
Nathan Collie and Anne Goetze will hold a joint exhibition entitled All About Birds at Warner Park Nature Center in September. See more of Nathan’s work at www.nathancollie.com.