(c) Jasper White
This isn’t the first time Jasper White has featured in the BJP – we ran his Man sheds project, a study of Australian men’s most private spaces, in February 2011. His latest personal project, Bird Cages, is another spin on personal space, this time tracing the rooms within rooms of pet birds in Barcelona. White, who’s a busy advertising photographer for clients such as The Guardian, HSBC, and The Post Office, shot the whole series in five days, working with a P65+ Phase One back and a Pro Photo 600 light. “Digital was the only way to approach it, and the light was lightweight and portable,” he says.
White photographed 21 birds’ cages in and around Barcelona, tracking them down via friends, his Spanish assistant and a few co-operative vets. He used the same lens and shooting position for each shot to give the series consistency but, as he points out, ended up with some very different images. “The relationships between the owner and bird are very different – some birds are essentially treated like decoration, although the relationship is caring; others have a very close bond and are like a family member,” he says. “The images also give insights into other aspects of the owners’ life, social position, and age; by pulling back and showing more of the space I create a narrative and profile.”
White tried to spend a maximum of two hours in each owner’s flat and do five or six shoots per day, and says although some over-ran, most went smoothly. He has shot in many personal spaces and is used to putting people at their ease, and says involving his subjects in the image-making both helps put them at ease and makes for better pictures. He says working in Barcelona also helped him, because while it’s a reasonably large city, it’s also easy to navigate. He did a rough edit of the images straight away, then went back to them after a couple of days, then went through them again to see how they sit together as a series. “Normally I try to print everything then lay them out to view,” he says. “I find editing on-screen difficult as you can never see them all together.”
The project is the latest in a series of essays taking a personal space as a microcosm – White has previously shot brothel bedrooms, festival tents, car interiors, armchairs, computer monitors and the aforementioned sheds. Bird Cages was partly inspired by a few commercial projects in which he’s been working with animals, though, and White says it’s a departure for him because it includes a central character. “I also had a more stylised approach this time but the premise is the same – it’s a voyeuristic, quirky look at a part of these people’s lives.”
All images © Jasper White.
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