Walter A. Weber and Jodi Cobb

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They worked in different mediums. They lived in different eras. One was a painterly Midwesterner. The other is an urbane world traveler. Photographer Jodi Cobb and illustrator Walter Weber appear to have taken divergent paths in their lives, yet their art reveals their common ground. Both artists immerse themselves in the hidden world of their subjects. And sometimes their subject matter overlapped.

Jodi Cobb, the first woman named White House Photographer of the Year, observes firsthand hidden worlds most people are barred entry to, from the lives of Saudi women and the Japanese geisha to the ancient, mystical world of the Huli in Papua New Guinea. Her portraits of the Huli feature the headdresses made from the plumage of the sacred birds of paradise.

Walter Weber’s paintings of birds of paradise show the same curiosity and respect for detail and ritual that Cobb displays in her photos. Like Cobb, Weber immersed himself in habitats of his subjects—worlds hidden to most humans. For months at a time, Weber would observe and sketch whatever ecosystem he was illustrating at the time. The results were elegant, meticulously executed paintings that shed a light on a hidden culture in the animal world.