Birds are fascinating creatures to observe—it's no wonder why people find it an absolute pleasure to spend hours birdwatching. Artist, photographer, and printmaker Tom Leighton takes this type of observation to new heights by exploring the hidden architectural beauty of Earth’s most captivating winged creatures in his latest photography series, Aviary. Inspired by his explorations photographing tropical birds in flight for a commissioned project—and fostered under the constraints of pandemic lockdown—Aviary gives a rare, up-close look at the sculptural form of birds and contemplates what the artist describes as a reminder of “these creatures’ marvelous evolution but also of their vulnerability in the current climate emergency.”
“Photographing birds was certainly a new challenge for me,” Leighton tells My Modern Met, “but fortunately I had the advantage that these were residents at Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary in Cornwall. Some of the images captured for this series were while the birds were being held by their handlers and some were flying within an aviary, so I didn’t have to track them down in the wild. Specifically for the predatory birds, I was reminded that remaining totally still is sometimes as important to them as their speed—and I certainly took advantage of that!”
Still inspired by these remarkable feathered beings, Leighton now intends for this to be an ongoing series as he finds additional opportunities to photograph birds and continues to learn more about them. And it would seem this project has opened up plenty of new areas of interest that are ripe for the artist’s exploration.
“A process of static abstraction was revealed once the bird’s head was cropped from the image and the original context was removed,” the artist explains. “This editing process was so transformative in the feel and atmosphere of the images, the resulting effect was both startling and compelling.”