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By looking closely at living birds in the field through the materiality of color film and studio props, The Nature of Imitation explores the connection between seeing, knowing, and wanting. In detailed, hyper-real photographs that recall the decorative drawings of natural history, the work evokes the delicate experience of holding a bird against traditions of landscape representation in Renaissance frescoes and tapestries, Modernist painting and sculpture, and the early history of photography. Through collaborations with scientists, ecologists, and naturalists on the Massachusetts coast, at universities and research centers across the Northeast of the United States and in Costa Rica, Yola Monakhov Stockton gained access to wild birds captured for banding before their release, and those captive in labs. Alongside photographs taken in orchards, gardens, and on wooded paths, the work cultivates a vocabulary of techniques that attend to the process of making, such as light leaks on film, objects acting as masks inside the camera, or evidence of equipment, paper backdrops, and cut-out shapes. The field becomes an improvised studio, a living picture plane. The series revisits positivist modes of photographic representation and traditions of the avant-garde against a contemporary and personal awareness of the fragility of place.