By looking closely at living birds in the field through the materiality of color film and studio props, Yola 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 religious iconography, Renaissance frescoes and tapestries, and Modernist painting and sculpture. Through collaborations with scientists, ecologists, and naturalists on the Massachusetts coast, and at universities and research centers across the Northeast and in Costa Rica, the photographer 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 work derives from the photographer’s background as a documentary photographer in fields of conflict, where the deeply-felt experience of presence and witnessing sometimes clashed with the aesthetics of the resulting photographs, which were steeped in the exigencies of narrative. Here, in the constructed field of a pictorial space, the artist wished to make work in the field, in the place of the living objects depicted, but to do so as if in a studio, a place of making, control, and imagination.