All over the world, every year, birds are on the move. Their seasonal migration patterns have been described as “one of the wonders of the natural world,” with flocks regularly moving from one part of the globe to another, and back again. European swallows can cover 200 miles a day, travelling thousands of miles to spend winters in Africa, Arabia and the Indian sub-continent.
Shown here are collages by creative duo Bastien Pourtout (b. 1982) and Edouard Taufenbach (b. 1988). Titled Le bleu du ciel (The Blue of the Sky), the body of work revolves around the flight of swallows – capturing bird-filled skies at different times of the day. Each composition is made up of multiple smaller images, rearranged into a grid format and categorised accordingly. A variety of different cameras are used in the process – from digital reflex to mobile phones and Rolleiflex.
Billowing clouds, fluttering wings and rays of sunlight and are cropped and reshuffled into new configurations. The results are visually intriguing, with grey, blue and orange skies fluctuating and glitching like pixels on a screen. The series is a patchwork of movement and dynamism, showing birds darting in all directions. One composition focuses solely on wingtips. It’s an approach reminiscent of Eadweard Muybridge’s early photographic studies into motion. As the duo explains: “Always in the process of being made, the images are not conceived a priori, they are invented and constructed in the exchange.”
There’s something soothing about these photomontages. Perhaps it’s because they reconnect us to the Earth’s natural rhythms and cycles, reminding us to look up from our phone screens. Maybe it’s the visual categorisation that satisfies the human brain. Either way, Pourtout and Taufenbach’s approach has gained international recognition. In 2020, the duo won the Swiss Life Prize. Their work has been featured in numerous publications including Le Monde, Libération, Télérama and The New York Times.
Words: Eleanor Sutherland
All images courtesy Bastien Pourtout and Edouard Taufenbach, from Le bleu du ciel (The Blue of the Sky).