Lucas Bois: Shadow Birds and Creating a Mood

All images by Lucas Bois. Used with permission

Lucas Bois is a photographer, videographer and educator who has lived, worked, and travelled throughout South America and the world, making photographs which pay attention to subtle moods and gestures. He sometimes sharpens his photographic eye by walking without his camera, using his memory to preserve what he sees. Maybe this is the reason that each image he presents seems so decisive. Sometimes he works in art or fashion, but he also has various projects which tell imaginative stories with ordinary scenes.

In his series The Birds, Bois uses his poetic eye to isolate the birds and photograph them in such a way which emits a powerful mood. Hitchcock’s film of the same title is an iconic example of horror and suspense, but perhaps the same devices to achieve this are not utilized in Bois’s photographs. In one image from the series, a bird floats in a white abyss, eye wide and staring straight ahead. In another, a flock of black birds hovers above a group of shadowy figures, seated at tables. One photograph shows a flock of birds, loitering around, among them standing a child, her face obscured by a bird taking flight.

As we explore horror and surrealism this month, it’s particularly interesting to look at ways to create dramatic, expressive photographs, even in ordinary settings, taking pictures of ordinary subjects. Photography is a way to communicate the way we see the world, so the ability to infuse light or darkness into a scene, using your camera as the vehicle, is a very important power. Black and white even perhaps exaggerates this power — it reduces the world to tones, lights and darks, which we literally can control through exposure and contrast. The artistic possibilities of each moment are endless, because we can control the amount of light we as the photographer cast upon the scene. A keen knowledge of equipment and exposure can give you a clear voice in your image, and give the viewer an impression of how you’d like them to feel.

The effectiveness in this body of work lies in the quiet vastness against which these soundless, dark wings beat. The birds aren’t photographed lightly, they are photographed as hovering shadows in Bois’s urban landscape. The skies, though populated, still seem quite empty. There is at the same time in these pictures, a stillness and motion in tandem, which makes them seem a bit otherworldly. There are some figures, but they command much less presence that the birds do. It is not comfortable to feel like the humans could be overtaken, and yet the birds far outnumber us in these pictures. There is a silence to the photographs as well — these birds have noiseless wings against big, open skies. This is another connection to the cinematic masterpiece for which these images are aptly named, notable for it’s unconventional lack of the score.

In this interview, Bois discusses his practice of photography and how he achieved the dramatic mood of these photographs.

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Please tell us about your photography. How did you get started? Do you take pictures every day?

I’m not sure exactly when I started to take photos, but I remember being young when my dad taught me how to use the camera. When I was 11, I found a professional camera at the top of my wardrobe and I began studying it and understanding how it worked. I shoot a lot but not every day. I also like to walk without my camera, just to observe, be more present at the moment and use my memory to remember what I see.

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Why do you shoot black and white?

I think black and white photography can better represent the mystery and the past in the images. That’s what I wanted to show in this series.

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What do you think has the most effect on the mood of a photo?

Definitely, the light. Lighting is the main thing responsible for transmitting a dramatic or a soft image, and for setting the mood of the photo.

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Do you only take photos of birds? Tell me about shooting this project.

No, I also have other narrative projects focused on portrait, artistic photography and photojournalism. The photos from this series came at a time when the reality around me was filled with birds and that caught my attention.

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How did you become inspired to shoot The Birds?

When I lived in Buenos Aires, I worked as a photographer and tour guide and I observed the city a lot. One of the things I noticed was the amount of pigeons there are on all of the squares and streets. As a Hitchcock lover, I was immediately reminded of the movie “The Birds” when I saw the pigeons taking over everywhere and flying over our heads.