In the midst of an anxious time in his life, photographer Dan Wilton found himself in Sweden looking for a subject he could photograph “quietly and slowly”. “It was one month before our daughter Lola was born, and I wanted to balance out the noise of excitement and anticipation in my head,” Dan explains. He toyed with a few ideas, but settled on the crane migration around Lake Hornborgasjön in Västergötland, and “the inherent humour of a flock of birdwatchers”.
A well known wetland bird habitat, the area attracts thousands of Eurasian cranes during their annual migration along with “an accompanying gaggle of birdwatchers”. Dan set out to depict both, and the serenity of the scene. “Past the birdwatchers, the cranes gather in the shallows of the lake, jumping and dancing and calling to each other. It’s an amazing site at full throng. And with an estimated 16,500 cranes at the lake each day, it’s very, very loud – somewhat ironic given that I was looking for something quiet to photograph.”
Dan says he wanted to approach it from an oblique angle, without posed shots or even showing faces, making it more akin to nature photography with an overarching theme of “the observer, observed”. As a result he says it was one of the most solitary projects he’s undertaken – “most of the time I really didn’t speak to anyone” he says. “I spent a lot of time waiting for something… anything to happen. It turns out watching birdwatching is a slow process, but that slowness was part of the appeal.” The only faces really shown are that of the birdwatchers’ dogs, looking bored – “as if to say, what kind of a walk do you call this?”
In colour palette, the photographs draw from the natural surroundings and its hues of beige and brown. “It’s a truly beautiful and intrinsically Scandinavian landscape,” Dan says, “the tones of which were mirrored by the often camouflage colours of the birdwatchers’ outerwear.” This was best captured during overcast weather or late in the day, and some shots were cut from the final book because the light or birdwatchers’ clothes were too bright.
Dan then worked with designer Fabrizio Festa on curating the images for a 44-page book, titled Crane, which were paired according to how they mirrored each other in form and structure. “In the end,” Dan says, “the book is about looking forward and outwards. And bored dogs, of course.”
Crane is published by The Golden Pig Press in collaboration with Blink Art.
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