The Amazing Motion Sensitive Photography of Jill Musnicki

Jill Musnicki and her husband Jameson Ellis at the Nature Conservancy benefit Saturday
Jill Musnicki and her husband Jameson Ellis at the Nature Conservancy benefit Saturday

With the aid of motion sensitive digital cameras Jill Musnicki of Sag Harbor has been spying on Mother Nature for the past four years. The result is a series of films that were shown at The South Fork Natural History Museum and The Nature Conservancy’s Beaches & Bays Gala this past weekend.

On Friday, more than 150,000 photographs taken over the course of the past ten months were shown as a film loop at the South Fork Natural History Museum. Entitled “What Comes Around II,” the footage offers a secret glimpse of life along the Longpond Greenbelt as deer lock antlers, fisherman take to the water, and raccoons wash their paws in the pond.

On Saturday, photographs taken at the Warhol Estate in Montauk were shown on five giant screens placed around the perimeter of a tent at the Nature Conservancy benefit. Like alien spaceships that alighted on the manicured lawns of the Conservancy headquarters off 114, the screens glowed with images that scrolled through the seasons: Waves break in rhythmic sequence on the beach as deer (who figure prominently in both films) forage for food during the winter months.

In both instances the films are made up of still images. Musnicki, who first showed her nature photo montages in 2012 as one of the installations on the Parrish Road Show, said each camera can yield up to 12,000 images.

Each month, Musnicki collects the cameras and downloads the images, editing them into sequences that owe as much to the wonders of digital photography as they do the 19th century action sequence photography of Eadweard Muybridge.

“I edit as I go,” Musnicki said. “I’m probably one of the only people who loved last winter. The snow was so effective for my work.”

Musnicki, who is best known as a painter, has shown her work at the Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton, The Parrish Art Museum and The Drawing Room in East Hampton. She attended University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her family has farmed land in Bridgehampton for four generations.


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