The Christmas cards have arrived, and as usual I have printed one of my own images. As you might imagine with my photographic output finding a suitable image isn't always that easy! What would you like? The tortured mind of war from Mametz Wood? The scene of a murder? Even the abstract expressionist trees of Songlines only barely measure up on occasion.
This little fellow came and sat with me early one evening as I was waiting for the last light to fade at The Scene of a Murder. I was amazed how tolerant he was of my presence. He was only just out of arm’s reach, yet I was able to move both myself and the camera on the tripod twice, manually refocusing, opening up the aperture and notching up the ISO as it was now very nearly dark.
I even managed to get some photos of him without the little branch that intrudes from the right, but they didn't feel right. They weren’t as sharp as this one, but more importantly the bird’s posture was different/wrong. And that little branch is part of how I've envisioned this place for the series. Elements intruding into the frame unexpectedly have a proud and honourable tradition in photographic history, even to the extent that some claim it to be part of the photographic language. Plus I really didn't want to make a ’natural history’ photograph, one that's all about technique, but empty of any underlying meanings or stories, personality or connection to place. Perfection just doesn't interest me.
To you it probably looks like a photograph of a robin, and it is really, but at the time, and in that place it felt profound. It felt like absolution, resurrection or some such term. I'm not a believer so don't really have a good grasp of these type of phrases, and if anything religion operates at the level of metaphor. Suffice to say I felt a forgiveness, a cleansing in the presence of this little bird in a place where such terrible things had happened.
It’s, as close as I'm likely to get to a religious experience this year, and so I hope it'll make a suitable Christmas card. Even to my Christian friends who I think I can hear tutting at this heathen and his warped understanding of their belief. Most of you reading this of course won't be receiving one, I'm sorry I can only afford so many! Yet I hope there's something in this story that you can carry within, that might like the presence of a tiny bird make the world a better place.