Listener Spotlight – Eric Fortman (Biologist Photographer)

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Jim Harmer spotlights listener Eric Fortman, a biologist photographer.

Eric Fortman: I’m a Biologist who uses photography to communicate science. Sometimes I use photography to capture data. (e.g. Seaside sparrow coloration, and wood stork foraging). Sometimes it is used in conversations is between scientists to help describe a certain phenomenon (e.g. landscape photos can help describe the habitat of a specific cite). Sometimes used in conversations with the public to get them to understand our research, and care about conservation (e.g. the clearing and stain technique used in Morphology).

I started photography in high school, and continued in college as the photo editor of the student newspaper. In college I started using photograph to document some of the scientific research I see around me. After graduation, I began incorporating photography in some of my research positions with universities and wildlife management agencies. Most of my work has roots in photo journalism. But I branch into fine art as well.

Morphology is the first project I have created specifically for a gallery setting. It explores concepts of biodiversity, form & function. I hope to get viewers to consider the incredible diversity of structure found in fishes, and foster an appreciation for the complexity of the natural world.

All of the species featured are found in the costal waters of Florida. Each specimen goes through a chemical process that stains bone: red, cartilage: blue, and renders other flesh transparent. Depending on the specimen, it takes about 3 weeks to complete the process.

In October of 2016, the first phase of the project opened at the DNA by the Hand of Man Gallery in Gainesville, FL. Currently in its second phase I am working to expand the number of species included. My eventual goal is to photograph one species from every fish Family found in Florida. Limited edition C-type or aluminum prints are available for purchase.

I also included a copy of my CV if you are interested.


  • Use a constant light source for macro work. It will make your life easier.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new techniques. Weather it’s focus stacking, HDR, etc. Start in a low preserve situation, and get the basics down. When you find a story that requires the technique. You will be glad you had some practice first.
  • Make photos, even if they suck. Photography is iterative. Just like a painter will sketch, and sketch, and sketch, until they hit on idea that is worthy of becoming a painting. Do the same with a camera.
  • Give yourself permission to work on a personal project. It ties easy to fall into the trap of making photos for everyone else but yourself. It will be worth your time and money, and make you happier to.

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