When humans first arrived in Aotearoa, a land that had been geographically isolated for 80 million years, birds dominated its extensive forests. Their cries loudly echoed everywhere. The lack of predators led to the evolution of flightless species and thriving of the native wildlife. With men, however, came invasive mammals, in addition to destructive practices such as deforestation and poaching. The impact of these changes led to the extinction of half of the land’s vertebrate species, including fifty-one birds.
What could be hidden behind one’s desire to reach the antipodes? In 2014, I decided to leave for New Zealand : one of the most distant places on Earth from where I was living at the time, a country as big as United Kingdom but with a population 16 times smaller. The need for a new start was just too strong to be ignored. Or was it the clamour of a heavy and uninterrupted geological activity that I was hearing. For almost a whole year, a brief moment, I was able to comprehend my belonging to that underground in turmoil, as pure as the edges of the landforms it leaves behind.
Born out of the confrontation with the photographic archives of a year down under in New Zealand, Land of quiet birds presents itself as an investigation, an itinerary, the one of a lost traveller, a seeker halfway between abandonment and lucidity, whose images will only make sense once the muffled violence of the ordinary is left behind.
At the root of this body of photographs, an effort stands out: that of shaping of the silence that permeates the forest I walked through. A silence that seems to say that something is on the lookout, ready to take a leap. Like remains of an ancient passage still echoing. In this silence is the story of a disappearance, shared by many other islands: the arrival of invasive animals, no matter what their shape, origin or intentions, often brings on a devastating impact to the environment. Very soon, there is not a lot left from the previous world. New Zealand’s fate was much the same. The book is mostly about this constant tension, the one between men and their milieu, that rarely leads to a good ending for everyone.
It is by way of this silence, however, that a renewal can take place. Renewal of our planet, which evolves on a temporality that is very hard to relate to, and renewal of our own presence, one to which I cannot escape. For the birth and death cycle of life never ceases. Except maybe when I press the shutter button, when I invariably hold my breath until the sensitive surface of the film is filled with light. Through this action repeated thousands of times, the person I am, who traveled and landed on an unknown territory, can then recognize the possibility, making its way like on a negative, to finally connect to myself. Almost like a reconciliation.