With a few of my projects I’m lucky enough to know what triggered them, for instance the ‘dead birds’ one was actually triggered a year or so after I took the first shot.
The first shot was of the dead pigeon on the road, which I exposed just cos it was there and the blood made an interesting pattern. But it was a year later and another couple of shots that I actually had the trigger happen.
I was sitting in the photo room of my old school, just chatting and doing paperwork (2/3rds of my photo practice is filing.) when I looked up and saw a thrush flying straight towards me, I had enough time to say “No” before it slammed into the window.
I went outside and the bird was on the footpath, and the bird was lying there, still obviously alive, and obviously trying to get up, though it would never move again. So I very gently picked it up, and could immediately feel that it’s neck was badly broken and it was only holding on by fighting like hell.
This whole time I had a girl from photo excitedly chattering and suggesting that I should break it’s neck or something – I wasn’t listening to her, in fact I was trying very hard to ignore her. I was talking to the bird, trying to tell it that it had reached the end of it’s life and it was time to relax and let go.
Gradually the bird calmed down and stopped fighting, I was prepared to help it die, but it would not take it’s life from it. When it said that it was ready I let it’s head fall gently back and felt it’s heartbeat start to slow down and a few moments later it passed over.
The last time I had felt that was holding my daughters hand while her life support was turned off many years ago, both of these things were playing in my head as the birds heart stilled, lying in my hands.
I put the bird in a garden, I didn’t bury it, it didn’t feel necessary.
Since that time my photographs of the dead birds have been part of my engagement with the possibility of a photograph being an eulogy, a moment of our lives and our history (or of a strangers) that can never be ‘here’ (in a psychological sense) again. It is an investigation of the fact that I can never go back to the places, or to be the person I once was.