I’ve been trying to take photographs of the flocks of fieldfares that seem to be everywhere here now, but they are a nervous bunch and fly off well before I am in range. Mostly they are to be found in the hedges rather than on the fields, gorging on the haws and sloes whilst they can. That creates a bit of the problem in itself, because they are always seen against the sky and so are in silhouette. To capture the lovely autumnal colouring of the birds will require a different approach and patience. Meanwhile, I have only one poor iphone shot of them and you’ll have to take my word for it that there were several fieldfares in the frame.
Nature seen in silhouette is one of the distinctive aspects of the autumn/winter landscape. Tree top gatherings of various birds are a particular feature. Here is a parliament of rooks, checking out potential nesting sites.
Winter’s sculptural forms are now revealed. They are the sort of patterns seens on cards, curtains and furnishings. I have a few myself!
In fact, true black on white silhouettes are curiously difficult to produce from normal photographs. It is a tricky thing to include all the details that you can pick out with your eyes using a single threshold value. It puts me in awe of artists who cut paper to produce accurate stark profiles and intricate pictures.
The art of silhouette cutting originated in Europe in the early 1700s as an entertainment for the lords and ladies attending extravagent balls of the period. However, whilst the aristocrats were enjoying such attention and eating like kings, much of Europe was starving, especially in France. France’s Finance Minister, Etienne de Silhouette, became infamous for settling crippling taxes on the people, but he was also known as an obsessive of the craze for cutting out paper profiles. So in protest the poor took to wearing only black to mimick his paper cutouts and the refain “We are dressing a la Silhouette. We are shadows, too poor to wear colour. We are Silhouettes!” echoed around the country.
Coincidently, whilst on holiday in France last year, I discovered the wonderful work of cut paper artist Béatrice Coron. We were visiting the beautiful château and gardens at La Roche-Jagu in Brittany.
Much of the château’s interior is used as exhibition space and we happened on an exhibition celibrating paper cutout work. Several artists were represented, but I fell in love with the fairytale stories told in silhouette by Béatrice Coron.
Some of the paper cuts are so fine it seems impossible that the pieces will hold together.
The degree of detail, sense of movement invoked and sheer scale of the stories told are marvellous.
With a sense of coming full circle, I am happy to have been reminded of Beatrice’s work by my quite dreadful iphone photo of fieldfares in the hedge.