Photographer captures “birds eye view” in Everglades

Arts / Article

By Giselle Heraux, AIRIE residency birds, 2000-present, eyes wide shut, 2010, photo by Susan Silas

Susan Silas is looking for birds, dead or alive, during her August AIRIE residency in Everglades National Park.

Silas, a photographer from Brooklyn, notes that she captured birds subconsciously in her early work. But, one incident would change her reflection and the way she focused on her birds in her photography.

“I found a newly dead sparrow on the sidewalk in Brooklyn as I was leaving the gym,” says Silas. “I took it home with me and that began a project that is now ongoing for 13 years.”

That project is found birds, 2000-the present. The collection features dead birds of different species in various positions, documenting the process of decay through highly detailed and textured studies.

Photo by Susan Silas

Photo by Susan Silas

During her time in the Everglades, Silas will continue to photograph birds, but with a different approach, spending long days at Shark Valley, Royal Palm and Flamingo following and photographing vultures and crows.

“I have been thinking about Icarus of course, and about all of the mythology that imagines birds as mediators between earth and the heavens, and of Philippe Petit, who came as close as anyone to playing that role in modern memory, laying down in the air between the Twin Towers in New York City and stretching his arms out to embrace the sky.,” says Silas. “I have been occupied with birds that are already dead, so the subjects are the same but they are in a different state.”

Sample bird drawer at South Florida Collection Management Center, photo courtesy SFCMC

Sample bird drawer at South Florida Collection Management Center, photo courtesy SFCMC

Silas will also document the ornithological specimens in the South Florida Collections Management Center, which holds an archive of the bird species, eggs, and nests found in the Everglades. More of Susan Silas’ work can been seen at her website.