Jean-Luc Mylayne (b. 1946) has spent decades traveling the world, photographing songbirds in their natural habitats. From the rural south of France to the plains of the southwestern United States, Mylayne has observed sparrows, thrushes, and wrens, sometimes waiting weeks or months for the right composition.
With his pursuits of philosophy and poetry as the starting point of his photographic process, Mylayne investigates questions related to the the human gaze. He begins his work like a naturalist, biding his time until the birds become used to his presence; he makes sure that the birds have autonomy, then waits until the human gaze gives way to mutual observation.
Unlike wildlife photography, which often seeks spectacular images, Mylayne’s goal is to produce a seemingly casual picture. The birds are off-center, or are only partially captured in the frame; they can be blurry, or seem to have just departed the scene. “When I see a bird, then I always see the tree in which it sits, which is near a house. I always see the whole ensemble,” says Mylayne, describing his form of perception.
Mylayne’s images were recently published by Hatje Cantz in a book titled The Autumn of Paradise.
Accompanied by philosophical and autobiographical essays by Bice Curiger, Maja Hoffmann, Jacqueline Burckhardt, Christie Davis, and Leo Lencsésum, as well as a poem by Jean-Luc Mylayne, The Autumn of Paradise is divided into nine chapters.
The Autumn of Paradise
By Jean-Luc Mylayne
November 17, 2018 – February 10, 2019, Fondation Vincent van Gogh, Arles
May 18 – August 11, 2019, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau
March 6 –May 10, 2020, Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover
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Picture Story: Bird Odyssey (for PDN subscribers; login required)