‘Engineered by Nature’- a David Yeo exhibition

David Yeo, winner of the inaugural British Life Photographic competition, is launching a new exhibition at the Leica Studio in Mayfair, open to the general public from 19th October to 3rd November 2017.

Using the Leica S, he has captured a unique connection and contrast between everyday man-made objects and the natural form.

From the fantastical diminutive world of Lilliput to the dioramas of the Chapman brothers, art has often played to our fascination with the miniature scale. With his new exhibition ‘Engineered by Nature’ David has swapped his usual human subjects for the study of miniature animals – both those naturally of diminutive size and those bred by humans for aesthetic pleasure.

Recently, we have seen the emergence of a fashion for miniature pets and it is often assumed that these are the grotesque invention of human beings, who have bred animals small for their novelty value. What people perhaps do not realise, is that diminutive size is a common occurrence in nature, where they have been engineered small by evolution as a particularly ingenious survival strategy.

Some of the little creatures featuring in this exhibition are natural dwarfs; they exhibit achondroplasia – literally meaning ‘the absence of good shape’ – which is the same condition found in human beings. The miniature pig is used in the medical research industry because of their close physiological and anatomical similarity to humans.

Other animals in the exhibition, such as the Indian Star Tortoise and the White Tree Frog, were engineered to be small by nature, and have shrunk down over many generations from much larger ancestors.

Scientists are still debating the reasons for this peculiar development. A smaller body size means animals need to consume less and use less energy. It is also easier for them to keep warm, as they have less surface area from which heat can dissipate. It is then perhaps unsurprising that many small animals emerged during the last ice age.

The connection and contrast between man-made objects and the natural form was something David wanted to explore further. He found that the difference between those engineered by both nature and by man is exaggerated by miniature animals. Thus, the idea for this exhibition was born out of a deeper look into the contrast between natural and artificial smallness.

Reflecting the prevalent view that animals are bred small to satisfy the human delight in cuteness, most photography of these creatures tends to be over-cute. Throughout this collection, David photographs the animals against a specifically engineered object or an object influenced by the workings of nature, to overturn this trend and to show the exquisitely intricate design of these small animals.

For David, each object had to represent size and scale to best emphasise the miniature size of the animal against the ordinary, recognisable item. The animal and object become abstract forms in an elegant graphical design.

To this end, the photographs in this exhibition follow the same pattern, achieving a hard- edged graphical aesthetic that is highly designed, thus exposing and exaggerating the minuteness and beauty of these perfect miniature animals.

For a project as challenging and innovative as this, David needed a camera that could support his needs and this is why he chose the Leica S:

“Everything about the Leica S is strong and solid; even when changing lenses, you feel the weight of the glass and immediately sense its unique quality. It’s simpler than other medium format cameras – less fussy and with fewer buttons. Everything has been stripped back.

Leica knows that as a photographer you are limited on time, so the Leica S makes sure you have what’s really essential to get the perfect shot: speed and quality. Essentially, you can pick up the camera and start using it immediately, without any computer-style setup. In this way it has a more organic feel.

The Leica S captures more detail than the human eye can see due to the craftsmanship of its lens and sensor. As such, Leica S files are incredibly high resolution, capturing the most minute of details visible even in large, scaled-up images – an incredibly important feature for this project.” And after the shoots, David found that editing was a breeze: “……the images were great straight from the camera and looked more filmic and cinematic than digital.”

David first came to prominence when he became the inaugural winner of the Deloitte/Schweppes Photographic Portrait Award exhibiting his ‘Brothers and Sisters’ image in the National Portrait Gallery. Over the years, he has remained in the spotlight, collecting a number of awards including his most recent accolade: Winner of the inaugural British Life Photographic competition with an image shot for British Vogue. His other exhibitions include the Royal Opera House, the National Gallery and the Proud Gallery, amongst others.

His work covers a diverse range of fashion, portraiture and film, and features some well- known subjects such as Roberto Cavalli, Manolo Blahnik, Zaha Hadid, Ralph Fiennes and Rosamund Pike – to name but a few! David’s gift for genuinely original and graphically robust imagery comes from a strong visual memory uniting the wholeness of composition with his ability to light and create the perfect mood to compliment his subjects.

This body of work is David’s most innovative image creation to date.

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