Animal Logic

Photo: Richard Barnes

The starlings, swallows and swifts that I have enjoyed watching all summer are now on their way south and everything is quiet in our orchard. I'm already looking forwards to their return, slightly nervous that perhaps, this time, they won't come back.

Richard Barnes' new book, Animal Logic, features this picture, 'Murmur 21', on the front cover and begins with the lines:

"Richard Barnes photographs are subtle, even delicate provocations. They ask us to pause and assess the consequences of our stampede towards an uncertain future."

His photographs of the complex flocking behaviours of migrant birds leave me open-mouthed in awe; they are witness to an intelligence and reason that is way beyond my rational grasp. 

In Animal Logic, Richard questions our exploitative relationship to the 'other than human' world. He brings a deep interest in curatorial processes to his work, challenging our conception of what should be saved and what should be forgotten or discarded. On his website he asks, simply, "Whose past is worthy of collection and preservation and whose is expendable and why?"

I think it is the notion that we are already choosing who is expendable that challenges me the most...


Photo: Richard Barnes

Shifting from the complex beauty of airborne starlings to haunting images of crated gazelles, Richard's work prompts me to think that time is running out for many of our most spectacular species and, perhaps in turn, for the wider ecosystem. I realise I am fearful of the day when the curator holds our memory of the natural world.


Photo: Richard Barnes

But Richard's images require me to live in hope - they bring a strange perfection that echoes and emphasises our experience of fragile nature. They also ask me to reassess my own contribution to our stampede into uncertainty.

So, in spring I will be looking for the migrant birds again. According to the poet Ted Hughes:

"They've made it again, which means the world's still working...."


Steve Marshall2 Comments