Published in Autumn 2021, this signed limited edition book is comprised of images from three related collections of photographs – Field Notes (2017 – 2021), The Augurs (2018) and Those Who Were Birds (2018 – 2021). The images in the book are recorded in a variety of locations – they are not specific to any one place or timeline. They are connected by virtue of being a series of observations in the field – a record of an obsessive need to look up and search for signs of presence.
By examining the iconographic and symbolic significance of birds of prey, these large format photographic works allude to the transcendent or mystical associations conjured up by these animals. The title references the practice in ancient Rome of reading the flight of birds for prophetic reasons and interpreting these signs as good or bad omens. Making particular reference to J.A. Baker’s canon of nature writing The Peregrine, the works reject familiar representations of nature and resist associations with the sublime or the pictorial. Here the birds resist meeting our gaze and are presented as distant, unknowable and fundamentally alien. This project was possible with special thanks to the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History.
Those who were birds:
These large format analogue photographs depict lone birds of prey, hovering in empty skies. Deliberately keeping the animal distant within the frame, the works do not attempt to create familiar representations, preferring instead to focus on the material presence of an animal watching from a distance. At times an object of symbolic political power, the bird of prey is also regarded as a symbol of ecosystem health and is therefore invested with multiple meanings simultaneously. The birds photographed here are primarily re-introduced species and are thus regarded as a conservation success but this also by contrast, raises questions about the conditions leading to the depletion of the species. The works therefore operate as both the material presence of an animal and as a sign of permanent loss – both indicators of a ‘nature’ reshaped for the purposes of capital.
For more info, see Martin’s website here
About the Author:
Martin Healy lives and works in Dublin. He works predominantly through the mediums of photography and video and his works have been shown widely both nationally and internationally. He is a recent recipient of a residency at Cove Park, Scotland in 2014. Other residencies include Temple Bar Gallery & Studios / HIAP-International Residency Exchange, Helsinki, 2010; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, 2008; Artists’ Residency Programme at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2007; the International Studio Programme Residency at PS1 Contemporary Art Centre, New York, 2000/01.