Birds in the wild are difficult to photograph. So when I saw these photographs by Minneapolis-based Paula McCartney, I was impressed by her closeness to the animals (although just the right distance to have the viewer fooled, at least at first), as well as the inclusion of the environment. “This seems realistic,” I thought, “only slightly better. She must be a really quiet and really still person.” I thought things were getting a little weird at the third image in the series, then the fourth, and the fifth is when I realized–I’d been fooled! And I loved it. I also really enjoy the statement that accompanies the work, particularly the second part.
From the artist’s statement: “Bird Watching combines varied natural settings with carefully placed craft store songbirds to crate an enhanced landscape. This work explores how nature and fabricated elements can combine to create a scene that questions what is natural, and whether being so holds any intrinsic importance. I use photography to explore the idea of constructed landscapes. Inspired by Victorian botany journals, Blossfeldt’s Art Forms in Nature, and Audubon’s Birds of America, the scientific practice of collecting and labeling specimens is a starting point for my work. I have examined the natural landscape and then added to it, creating a new environmental experience.
On walks in the woods, I would stop to look at the birds, but didn’t attempt to document them. They were always too far away, moving about too quickly and never landed in an appropriate composition. I decided to take control, buy my own birds, and create idealized scenes that I fantasized about, where songbirds perched patiently on trees as I moved through the woods and photographed them. The birds act as decoration, making the landscapes more interesting than they are on their own. Rather than settling for what nature has to offer, I have taken control and adorned the trees.”