Behind the Scenes, Gardens and Architecture, Getty Villa, Photographs, Film, and Video, Voices

The Waltz of the Hummingbirds

Photographer and nature-whisper Tahnee Cracchiola continues her week on Getty Voices sharing her stunning series of encounters with wildlife at the Getty Villa. Here she shares her surprising dance with two hummingbirds.


After I completed the photography of the sculpture gardens at the Getty Center, I was relocated to the Getty Villa to photograph for the Gardens and Plants of the Getty Villa publication. While shooting on the Roman Road near the entrance of the museum, I came upon a patch of acanthus flowers. I started shooting away and then heard a buzzing sound…more like a whizzing sound…and then a hummingbird flashed across my lens. He came back again dancing around the flower. I literally held my breath! And then a brown hummingbird came into frame—I assumed it was the female. The two greeted each other and then began their beautiful waltz.

All images by Tahnee Cracchiola © 2009 J. Paul Getty Trust

It was such an inspiring moment and a most interesting sight. Not only of the birds, but of me photographing because I was on my back in the middle of the road. I heard cars behind me and realized that the security guards had surrounded me and made the traffic wait for me to finish the shoot. Now that’s what I call teamwork for the sake of art!

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One Comment

  1. Lisa
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Stunning!!

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      A Chat with Photographer Tomoko Sawada

      A conversation about Japanese matchmaking traditions, self-portraiture, clothes, and identity.

      When did you start photographing yourself?
      I began making self-portraits when I was 19. It was an assignment for a photography class. I can’t even explain in Japanese why I liked them so much. It was instinctual. It’s as if I knew that this was going to be my style, that this is what I wanted to do. And I’m still doing it because I love the self-portrait, but I don’t know why. 

      What themes are you exploring in your work?
      I’m interested in the relationship between inside and outside. If you wear a sexy dress or if you wear kids clothes or casual clothes, people treat you differently. Even though you are you no matter what you wear. It’s that relationship that makes me think. 

      My new work is from when I was living in New York. When I was in New York, people didn’t think I was Japanese. Sometimes they thought I was Korean or Chines or Mongolian. Even Singaporean. It was funny, when I would go to the Japanese market, they would speak to me in English. When I went to the Korean market, they would speak to me in English again. I don’t seem to look Japanese outside of Japan. I was surprised because I think I look totally Japanese. It’s funny that people’s points of view are totally different.

      Could you talk a little about OMIAI, the series that represents a traditional Japanese matchmaking technique.
      OMIAI is a tradition that is somehow still working today. Usually, there is a matchmaker and photographs are exchanged before meeting. If both sides are interested, they can meet for lunch or dinner accompanied by their parents and steps for marriage proceed from there. In the old days, some people chose their marriage partner just through photographs, without even meeting each other. 

      When OMIAI was exhibited in Japan I saw people making various comments in from of the work. People would say things like, “she looks like a good cook; surely she would prepare delicious meals every day,” or “ this girl could be a perfect bride for my son,” or “I can tell she would not be a good housewife,” or “she’s such a graceful girl; she must be the daughter of a decent family.” Comments like that. 

      What was the process of making that work?
      I gained 10 pounds before I started taking the pictures, and in six months I lost forty pounds, because I wanted to look different in each photo. I wanted to change the way my legs looked. 

      Every weekend I went to the hair salon and put on a kimono. Then I went to the photo studio on the street in Japan. I would take a picture and then change my clothes to western dress. Then I would go to the studio again the next weekend. 

      Did you tell the photographer how you wanted it done?
      I told him I was an artist and wanted to make photographs with him. I told him to think that each weekend new girls would show up to make the OMIAI. I didn’t want him to think of me as the same girl who came every weekend. He understood the concept. 

      We had fun. While he was taking pictures, his wife would tell me how to lose weight. She gave me many tips.


      Tomoko Sawada’s work is on view at the Getty until February 21, 2016 in “The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography”

      02/11/16

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