Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Elephant No. 114: Outagraphy

I ran across this technique a couple of months ago while researching Surrealist art, and thought I'd give it a try on a day when I didn't have a lot of time. I'm not sure I truly see the point of it, but it's an interesting idea.

An outagraph is, as the name more or less suggests, a photograph in which the primary subject of the photograph has been cut out. The method is believed to have been invented by American trumpeter, jazz poet and painter, Ted Joans.

There are very few downloadable outagraphs online, and those that do exist either have confusing or limited information on the artists, so I decided to stick only with the ones I created today.

There's not much I can say about the technique except that you take a photograph, excise the subject, then place it on a piece of contrasting paper to highlight what's missing.

For today's elephant, I thought about showing the before photographs, then decided to simply present the outagraphs. It can be interesting to guess what's been cut away in an outagraph, but if you'd like to see the original photograph for each, just click on the highlighted cutline under each.

I tried both black and white backing paper for all six, and found that some looked better with black, and some looked better with white. Generally speaking, the richer the background, the better white looks, and the more pale the background, the better black looks. You could obviously use coloured or patterned paper as well.

Baby African elephant.
Photo: John Macdonald, 2004
Source: http://animaldiscoveryonline.com/elephant-13.html

Man riding decorated elephant, Elephant Festival, Jaipur, India.
Photo: Paul Beinssen
Source: http://www.art.com/products/p12885396-sa-i2179225

Elephant painting a t-shirt, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Photo: Bernie
Source: http://www.heatheronhertravels.com/elephants-encounters-at-chiang-mai-in-thailand/

African elephant, Serengeti, Tanzania.
Photo: Anouk Zijlma
Source: http://goafrica.about.com/od/africanwildlife/ss/The-Big-5-

African elephant baby and mother.
Source: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/photography/

Kerala festival elephant.
Source: http://www.birgitsideenundreisen.blogspot.com/

This was an easy and sort of meditative activity. I actually like cutting around fine lines like this, so I enjoyed the technique. Better yet: no engineering, no gluing, no folding, no cooking, no sewing, no getting cold and wet. Gotta like that.

Elephant Lore of the Day
It occurred to me when considering outagraphs that the main purpose would be to highlight something that either no longer exists (as in an outagraph created from a historical photograph), or to highlight something that is in danger of disappearing. Elephants definitely fall into the latter category.

Elephants are currently considered an endangered species. By definition, an endangered species is one that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Elephants are nominally protected by both the African Elephant Conservation Act and the Endangered Species Act. Despite this legal protection, elephants face three major threats: poaching for their ivory, an activity that has risen again in recent years; loss of habitat; and human encroachment, which usually has deadly consequences for both people and elephants.

The statistics are sobering. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were an estimated five to ten million elephants in the world. By the end of the twentieth century, they numbered between 400,000 and 500,000. In the decade between 1980 and 1990 alone, the population of elephants in Africa dropped from 1.3 million to 600,000, due largely to the ivory trade. This precipitous drop resulted in an international ban on ivory, which stemmed but did not stop the poaching of elephants for their tusks.

Although elephant populations are increasing in some areas of eastern and southern Africa, other African nations report that their elephant populations have decreased by as much as two-thirds in recent years, even in protected areas. Chad in central Africa—one of the continent's poorest countries—has a decades-long history of poaching, which has caused their elephant population to drop from more than 300,000 in 1970, to only 10,000 today. And in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo—home to the gorillas made famous by Dian Fossey—the number of elephants in the park's observable area fell from 2,889 in 1951 to only 348 in 2006. Today, the total population of African elephants in the wild is estimated to be somewhere between 470,000 and 690,000.

The situation is similarly dire for Asian elephants. Despite the fact that the larger tusks of African elephants are far more attractive to poachers, habitat loss and human encroachment have been so devastating in Asia that the Asian elephant was placed on the endangered list a full 15 years before the African elephant.

It has been estimated that there were as many as a million elephants in Asia a mere 100 years ago. Today, it is estimated that there are only about 60,000 to 70,000 Asian elephants left. Somewhere between 38,000 and 53,000 are wild elephants; 14,500 to 15,300 are domesticated for use in logging, circuses and festivals; and about 1,000 can be found in zoos around the world.

The situation is particularly unfortunate in Thailand, where a ban on rainforest logging has resulted in a drop in domesticated elephants from 40,000 in 1980 to less than 2,600 today, and a current total population of both wild and domesticated elephants of only 6,000 or 7,000.

Saddest of all, just today the Sumatran elephant was declared critically endangered, having declined by more than 80% over the past 75 years—50% of that within the past 25 years alone. Having lost 69% of its habitat, the Sumatran elephant now faces extinction within the next 30 years.

Although frequently coming under fire from animal rights groups, well-run zoos and nature parks may one day become the last best hope for the world's largest land mammal.

Habitat loss is the most serious threat facing wild Asian elephants. The barred
areas show their previous range. The black areas show their current range.
Source: http://www.eleaid.com/index.php?page=asianelephantdistribution

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation 
Elephants Without Borders

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