When photographer Art Wolfe put together the original edition of his wildlife photography book Migrations, he was trying to emulate Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. “I wanted to pay homage to Escher and the patterns he created,” he said—particularly the famous woodcut Sky and Water in which a flock of birds transforms into a school of fish.
But digitally altering some of the photographs to obtain the effects he was after led to some controversy. “Purists said that it was creating false numbers, lying about the numbers of animals,” he said.
Wolfe doesn’t consider his work to be journalism and calls such images “digital illustrations” rather than wildlife photography, but he grew to understand why the reaction was so strong: People care about these animals and their fate. “When you’re dealing with wildlife, it brings out people’s emotions, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
For the revised and updated edition of Migrations, which will be published on April 1 by Earth Aware Editions, Wolfe has replaced dozens of the original photographs with new images. He said that in all but a few, he got the pattern effects he desired via advances in digital photography rather than post-processing—and, of course, thanks to the beauty and behaviors of the animals themselves, such as these silvery-coated harbor seals sunning on an island in Washington’s Puget Sound.
“There’s a little less pure pattern in this book and more about migrations,” Wolfe said.
Enter the gallery to see seven more photographs of wild animals on the move.