Greg Oakley

My obsession with natural history began when I was a child growing up in suburban southeastern Australia exploring for ants and birds and other creatures in my backyard, in rock pools at the beach, and in the local Aussie bush. As I grew older, I developed a passion for art – for drawing and painting – and for birds. By the time I entered university to study Art & Design, I was consumed with making intricate illustrations of birds.



My artistic focus shifted to photography a few decades ago and has evolved into the exacting challenge of crafting complex avian artworks – some of which are time-consuming recreations of extinct species. 

My inspiration comes from the scientists and artists of the nineteenth century, who set about to systematically study and catalogue plants and animals from around the world and communicate their beauty in printed media. They were obsessed with faithfully describing the species that they studied to better understand their place in the world.

In my work, I celebrate this art form in a contemporary take on those historic and iconic bird illustrators, particularly the legendary American artist, John James Audubon, and the English publisher, John Gould, and his immensely talented wife, the artist, Elizabeth Gould.

"I explore the space between the hyperrealistic, high-resolution, digital photography of the twenty-first Century and the idealism of the beautiful hand-drawn lithograph prints of the nineteenth Century. "


I take hundreds of individual digital photographs and sift through and combine them into a single image in which I remove the bird from its natural environment and context and recast it in a field-guide style that harkens to the iconic bird prints of Audubon and Gould. 

Over the years my love for and knowledge of birds has deepened, along with an understanding of their vital relationship to the environment. I have spent thousands of hours studying birds in their natural habitats in the Australian bush. Looking at and understanding detailed facets of their lives - the way they move, how they communicate, where they nest and where they forage, how all of this changes from season to season - has informed and reinforced my appreciation of birds and provided a critical foundation for my work.