Trying to Witness (2016 - Ongoing)
I was walking on the North side of Iowa City, heading downhill on Dodge Street into town. There was a blush of robins, playing with each other, taking turns chasing each other around, through, and beneath the branches of an oak tree standing in front of a house. I'd just had a smoke. The birds' play caught my ears then my eyes. I turned to watch them.
Not a minute later, one robin, chasing another like two jets in air combat, couldn't pull up on the joystick fast enough when their target performed an evasive maneuver. As the pursued robin rose to find a perch on a branch, it probably believed their skill had earned them a momentary respite.
The soft thud suggested not all was well.
The chasing robin struck the side of the house. I waited a moment, not wanting to disturb them, in case the bird did bounce up, and shake the knock off, as birds do. But I saw its little chest beating rapidly and then begin to slow.
I waited, knowing there was nothing I could do and there was no need to panic the robin as it died. I felt like someone needed to record it, acknowledge its passing.
Sometime later the movie Mad Max: Fury Road came out, with chromed out faces screaming, "Witness me!" as they performed kamikaze acts. Indoctrinated into a cult, they sought glory in this, but I understand the simple desire to be witnessed, if not everyday, at least as you die, for there to be a record you were here, especially in a world where your coming and going is inconsequential to the functioning of systems around you.
This first image you saw, I made on the day of the story above. It's shot at a distance, showing my hesitancy.
Thereafter I rarely witnessed the dying, rather more common was it for me to find death already come, and thus it was easier for me to look it straight on.
Reports suggest insect, and bird, die off on a mass scale over the last century. But because we see these animals everyday, it's hard for us to comprehend their numbers are falling. It's a slow, visible but invisible ecological decline.
- JK, London UK 23/07/2023