Yva Momatiuk and John Eastcott, a wife and husband team, are internationally published photographers of nature. Nomadic for years before the birth of their daughter Tara, whose arrival induced them to hang their hats in the Catskills with a sweeping view of old river valleys, they spend most of the year following animals, ever-changing landscapes, and moving with the light and the seasons while exploring the color, rhythm and wild essence of remote places.
Born in Poland, Momatiuk fell in love with nature photography at the age of 8, while watching grainy B/W documentary films of animals living in remote swamps of Eastern Poland. She has a Master’s degree in architecture and urban planning, and worked as a designer for the prestigious New York firm of Harrison and Abramovitz before she left the Manhattan landscape for a remote Wyoming cattle ranch near the Great Divide, where for several years she rode horses, chased cows, photographed and wrote.
A New Zealander, Eastcott published his first book of photographs at 17, earned a degree in photography in London, and met Yva in Wyoming near the Grand Tetons while touring the American West. They soon decided to share their photographic credits, proposed their first story idea to National Geographic and embarked on their Canadian Arctic assignment for the Still Inuit, Still Free article in 1976. More articles for the Society followed, documenting the lives of Maori of New Zealand's East Cape, high country sheep farmers of New Zealand, mountain people of Poland and Slovakia, and the inhabitants of the marine and sub-Arctic realm of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Momatiuk and Eastcott have followed the mustangs of the American West protected under the 1971 Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act, and had their body of work appear in a book of images and a Smithsonian cover story. They spent many seasons in Alaska, explored the American Southwest, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and the river swamps of the South. They also returned to the polar regions of the Canadian Arctic, photographed in New Zealand, Afghanistan and Kashmir, explored arid pampas of Patagonia and the outback of Australia and Africa.
They practice long commitments to places they love, and spent three summers exploring the Pribilof Archipelago and other islands of the Bering Sea in Alaska, documenting the rich marine wildlife and a stewardship program designed to strengthen the young Aleuts' link with the natural world and rekindle traditional values and land ethics of their people. The coverage resulted in a National Wildlife article, a Ranger Rick story for which the couple received RR's annual Magazine Writing Award, and an annual award of the Alaska Conservation Foundation for excellence in still photography dedicated to environmental issues. Their image of Mt.McKinley in Alaska became the 80-cent U.S. international airmail postal stamp.
Momatiuk and Eastcott's photographic essays appeared in National Geographic, Audubon, Smithsonian, Nature Conservancy, GEO France, Spain and Russia, BBC Wildlife, Stern, Focus, the Observer, Nature's Best, Wildlife Conservation, Equinox, Sierra, and Nature Canada. Their images were published by Life, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Natural History, Geo Germany, Travel and Leisure, The Sophisticated Traveler, Illustre, Panorama, Elle, Airone, Gente Viaggi, BBC World, Outdoor Photographer, Camera 35, Modern Photography, The Geographic Magazine, Nature Canada, Harry Abrams, Chanticleer Press, Grolier and Reader’s Digest Books. They have published six books: High Country (A.W.& A.H. Reed); This Marvellous Terrible Place: Images of Newfoundland and Labrador; In a Sea of Wind: Images of the Prairies (Camden House Publishing); Mustang (Rufus Publications) and two titles for the award-winnnig National Geographic Society series of non-fiction children books: Face to Face With Wild Horses and Face to Face With Penguins.
Among other honors, Yva and John received four awards at the National Press Photographers Association Pictures of the Year and five awards at the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year international competition, as well as awards in Nature's Best and National Wildlife magazine competitions.
In recent years, National Geographic published their article titled Dance of Death, the first known pictorial account of a dying Alaskan moose stalked by a family of wolves and grizzly bears who move in to share the bounty. Momatiuk and Eastcott ventured repeatedly to Antarctica in a small sailboat and photographed Shore Leave, a National Geographic photo essay about the southern elephant seals of South Georgia Island, and a Defenders of Wildlife article about global climate changes and their impact on many species of penguins.
Among their portfolios of images, Momatiuk and Eastcott cherish their continuing romance with some of their favorite subjects:
We have been photographing clouds for years.
As long as we can remember, we watched them form and dissipate
glow with a multitude of hues and roll heavy with storms
move with the wind and stand still for hours.
We felt the energy of these vast cloudscapes
towering cumulus formations, iridescent waves of lenticular clouds
and feathery cirrus fans.
The sky is a wilderness, a celestial refuge.
The clouds we observe are volatile and ever changing
visible to us but out of reach.
We cannot harness, own or develop them.
They retain the clarity of their structure of fine water droplets
and crystalline ice particles suspended in the atmosphere
at altitudes reaching up to several miles.
They create entire skyscapes, half of the landscape we see
and challenge us to look up and watch them unfold.
To make our images, we work in open spaces filled with weather.
And while we photograph the clouds moving above grasslands and mountains
ice fields and canyons, forests and deserts,
we experience the weather which creates them.
We are buffeted by windand get chilled to the bone
swelter in heat and hunker in heavy rain
feeling the next-to-the skin sense of being there.
This part of the process is what makes it real for us:
our physical presence in nature and the sense of being fully alive.
Our process leads us to fundamental questions about visual experience
and perception of what we see.
How do we view a scene while looking at it?
How do we remember it -- for days or years -- after we leave?
How do our memories reflect images
taken at the time when we saw the scene?
And how can the photographic medium be used to encompass
and communicate what we see -- the entire half dome
of the cloudscape, or its most exquisite fragment --
and yet stay in the realm of a still photograph?
To answer these questions, we use various photographic techniques.
We explore the clouds with long telephoto lenses
and with extreme wide angle ones.
We create panels of multiple images to show the passage of time
and the transitions in the constantly changing sky.
Like chapters of a book, these panels follow a story,
a time line,
we seek to create a dialog between the subject and the viewer.
We use our medium to explore and expand the limits of our perception.
Using multiple images to expand what can be seen at a glance,
we encourage the viewer to pause and focus momentarily
on one part of the cloudscape
before moving on and taking in another section
just as our eyes move when looking around.
In many images we show no land, allowing the clouds to float freely
as they do: unanchored, ephemeral and fleeting.