HIGH SOCIETY Exhibition Sydney on now / New York November to January 2020

Yen - February 2013


BIRDS – Leila Jeffreys

I live in the inner west of Sydney, which is a particularly urban environment quite devoid of trees. Nevertheless, I’ve become fascinated with the wildlife that live in my area. People think of the wilderness as being some magical place that’s away from cities but nature is incredible – it will fight to survive wherever it can and that includes the suburbs. I find that very inspiring. I get very excited when I spot a native bird that I’ve not seen before.

I’ve been taking photographs for 20 years but it has only been in the last five that I feel like I’ve started to take photos that I’m proud of. There is a lot to be said for practice and resilience.
It can be quite tricky [working with birds]. The challenge is to
get them in a position that is beautiful as well as capturing their character. So many times they’ll have a great expression but the position is all wrong.

Budgies constantly move and will give you about ten hilarious expressions in five seconds which means I have to work fast to capture them. Some Cockatoos are total show offs and flick their heads and raise their crests and dance from foot to foot. They are such expressive birds, it’s just a matter of capturing that split second when they decide to hold a pose. Then there are other birds that sit very still and just listen to me; they are a dream to work with. It’s always different. I get them to look at the camera just by talking to them. They’re naturally curious and they tilt their head and look at me when I speak.

I wanted the Cockatoo series to be wild birds which did make accessing them tricky. I started off working with WIRES carers, the wildlife rescue organisation. I also worked with wildlife parks, zoos and private breeders. None of the birds’ wings were clipped. They all lived either in the wild or in environments replicated to be like their natural habitat.

It is going to be a busy year for me. I have so many photographic projects that I want to work on. I’ll be spending my time finding ways to access different types of birds and trialling new miniature bird studios to suit them best and playing around with different lighting set ups. It is going to be a year of meeting a lot of wonderful critters and caring people and I can’t wait to get started!