Leila photographed by Simon Davidson with a female Glossy Black Cockatoo at the National Threatened Species Institute
Leila Jeffreys is an acclaimed photographic and video artist who lives in Sydney, Australia. She is best known for captivating images of birds from Australia and around the world that explore and subvert the traditions of portraiture. Her avian subjects are photographed at human scale with a startling attention to colour, line, form and composition. For Jeffreys, birds are both medium and message. Her practice asks critical questions about anthropomorphism while highlighting the connection between humans and other animals, the sense of interdependence between all living species and the profound refuge nature provides in a frantic world. Increasingly, Jeffreys’ work as an artist is inextricable from her concerns as an environmentalist. Working in the tradition of artist-activists, Jeffreys’ arresting images arethe result of years-long periods of research, exploration and investigation. The artist collaborates with conservationists, ornithologists and sanctuaries around the world. Through Jeffreys’ gaze, seemingly minor details such as the shape of a cockatoo’s beak, the rise and fall of a budgerigar’s plumage and the curious expression that flits across the face of a hawk are freighted with meaning. They are proof of her subjects’ status as individuals; her images are alive with an empathy that flows freely between artist and sitter. While Jeffreys’ practice is characterised by a sense of curiosity, openness and an unwavering moral vision, it’s also driven by an aesthetic rigour and a line of artistic inquiry that deepens with each new body of work.