A far cry from their picture-perfect appearance in nature guidebooks and wildlife documentaries, birds encountered in real life tend to be perpetually on the move, fluttering through lush meadows, city centers, and private backyards. In equal parts agile and alert, birds more often than not evade the absolute stillness and sharpness of focus characteristic of their portrayal in popular and scientific media, instead making their presence felt through a blurry flap of the wing, an indistinct peck of the beak or a diaphanous wag of the tail. Approaching avian nature obliquely, the ongoing series flicker (2020–) seeks to redefine the birdwatcher’s photograph manqué as an authentic representation of birds’ visual indeterminacy.
Using a DIY motion-sensor camera to capture images of birds in the urban environment, this project focuses on moments of transitory embodiment—of birds erupting into our view and dispersing out of it—to highlight nature’s fleeting, flickering presence in human life. Rather than subjecting the natural world to the objectifying gaze of science, intent on describing and classifying each and every photographed specimen, the selected images (interspersed with more conventional bird photographs) gesture at the distinctive elusiveness of avian existence by allowing birds to withhold their identifying physical traits from scrutiny. Through its subversion of traditional standards of ornithological photography, the collection as a whole offers a commentary on birds’ essential characteristics, defined not so much by bodily presence as by perpetual motion and transience.
By defamiliarizing our everyday encounters with wildlife, flicker (2020–) encourages interspecies rapprochement while also insisting on the inalienability of all living things.