One of my local galleries houses John James Audubon’s beautiful Blue Crane, Or Heron. It’s a picture which has always fascinated me. It’s a magnificent work of art but it’s the sheer vibrancy and animated majesty of the illustration which jumps out at you. The French ornithologist, naturalist and painter embarked on his quest to paint every bird in America in the 1820s. This culminated in Birds of America, which captured over seven hundred North American species.
Audubon embarked on a journey across the continent which would take up the best part of two decades, hunting and capturing specimens along with his assistant. Whilst on these expeditions he crossed paths with numerous native tribes, becoming aware of their connections with the flora and fauna surrounding them. In his new documentary Jacques Lœuille follows in the footsteps of one of the first nature conservationists.
Birds of America follows his trail as he travels down the Mississippi River, speaking to the indigenous populations and comparing and contrasting the landscapes and habitats between now and then. What he discovers is a landscape which is much changed. Humans and animals alike driven from their home by greed, corruption and industrialisation. Birds of America is a fascinating portrait of a wild country tamed and ravaged.
Birds of America screens at IFFR.