As a way to increase the public's awareness of animals and plants in their native habitats as well as glean a new perspective on these creature's daily lives, San Francisco, California-based artist Sam Easterson straps tiny helmet-mounted video cameras onto everything from buffaloes to tarantulas.
A video artist for ten years, Easterson's initial drive for seeking out different perspectives had him setting up equipment inside clothes dryers and popcorn poppers. Then in the spring of 1998, Easterson was commissioned by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis to create a new video project. For that project, which he titled "A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing", he outfitted a flock of sheep with helmet-mounted video cameras. The video footage captured of the perspective of one of the sheep was then showcased in an exhibition that he had at the Walker Art Center.
"I was shocked to realize all the other animals in the flock could tell that this one sheep with the camera had been 'altered' in some way. She kept trying to enter, and they kept treating her as an outcast. I also learned sheep can run very fast and fences are not as sturdy as you think."
That project changed Easterson's life and the direction of his career. Since then, he has been designing helmet-mounted video cameras that attach on to all sorts of animals and plants. Over 70 video shoots have taken Easterson to locations across the United States, where he has worked with birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and plants.
By allowing animals and plants to be the documentarians we are shown their daily battles with the landscape, their interactions with other species as well as their intimate gestures and sounds. "Take the armadillo. You can listen to its breathing patterns. You can watch closely the rotation of its ears as it encounters new things."
At this point, Easterson can see himself collecting 'POV' footage for Animal Vegetable Video for the rest of his professional life. During that time, he aims to build the world's largest and most comprehensive library of video footage ever captured from the point of view of animals and plants. He hopes that his work "will help expand the public's capacity to understand the natural environment - in empathetic terms."
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