Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bird Watching.

Bird Watching. Photographs by Paula McCartney. Texts by Darium Himes and Karen Irvine. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010. 120 pp., 40 colour illustrations, 8x10". Images from photo-eye.

American photographer Paula McCartney has for years been making 'unique and limited edition artist books'. To her the book is a medium in itself and she 'visualizes much of her photographic work in book form' - to the extent that many of her photographs only exists in artist book format.

'Bird Watching' is her first monograph and wider-release book (published by the excellent Princeton Architectural Press). It's an 'expanded version of her artist book 'Bird Watching' and includes every image from the series'.

"At first glance, conceptual artist Paula McCartney's 'Bird Watching' seems to be a most exemplary specimen of a bird-watching journal. Handwritten notations recording species, location, size, and markings describe well-rendered and flawlessly composed photographs of a wide variety of passerines, or perching birds, in their natural settings in locations across the United States. Page after page of the most wonderfully diverse species of birds are perfectly posed in picturesque natural settings - a bird-watcher's dream.

On second glance, however, the birds appear a bit too carefully arranged amid the tangle of brush and branches. An even closer look reveals stiff wire protrusions mounting each bird to its perch, matted tufts of overdyed faux feathers forming wings and splashes of paint creating eyes and beaks.

McCartney has activated her atmospheric landscapes by adding synthetic decorative birds purchased at craft stores. This startling revelation has you wondering if the artificial might ultimately be more satisfying than the natural."

For interest: there is also a review of this book in photo-eye magazine.

UPDATE: Please note that all quotes in the first two paragraphs are from the photo-eye magazine review (by Larissa Leclair). The lengthy quote at the end is part of the publisher's description.

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