Tracing the Sky: Ornithographies by Xavi Bou

‘I look for the choreography of birds in the sky, and I make it visible,’ says Spanish photographer Xavi Bou. ‘I’m not an artist inspired by nature, I just show something that is already happening.’ Xavi’s work allows us to see what is typically invisible to the human eye – the movements of birds across the sky. His Ornithographies series documents swirling clouds of starlings locked in a dance of death with a single hawk; the languid movements of cranes making wafer-like horizontal lines in the sky; the scrawling, chaotic tangle of playful ravens: ‘This is not a practical flight. They’re having fun,’ he says.

Xavi began working on the Ornithographies project in 2015. Before, he worked in advertising and fashion photography and in his spare time was ‘the weirdo looking for birds’. He travelled a lot, not to take wildlife photographs, but just to look. ‘I go only with my binoculars.’ One day, he says, he was looking at paw prints on a track and thought, ‘What kind of tracks would birds leave in the sky?’ I imagined lines similar to planes and I thought, ‘Okay, it would be cool if I could make it visible.’

Ornithographies grew from Xavi’s passion for birds and nature, and instead of sating it, fuelled it. ‘Before the project I was so passionate, but now I’ve become crazier,’ he says. ‘I spend all my time thinking about nature, talking about birds. I cannot talk about other things. The line between obsession and passion is blurred.’ This obsession has spurred new projects, one on birds and another on insects. Everything he does is ‘about nature and novel ways to show its inherent beauty’. This is where the power of Xavi Bou’s work lies – not in interpretation, but revelation. Showing us what has always been present, always been beautiful, whether visible or not.

Post cover image caption: Xavi Bou. Ornithography #153. Gallocanta, Spain. Every year many thousands of cranes spend winter in the isolated landscape of Gallocanta in north-eastern Spain. At dawn and dusk, groups of the birds fly in a V formation, filling the sky.