I had the luck to stumble upon the last half-priced copy of the Val Williams´ book on the work of Martin Parr in the Walter König book store in Vienna. Parr is one of my heroes. I had to smile with a passage on his fathers´ passion for ornithology, and how it influenced the photographer in observing the world around him. Parr himself says: “What I did get accustomed to during my surrey childhood was the idea of watching, very quietly. My earliest memories were of going out with my father, in particular on bird-watching trips, day trips, and, indeed, birth-watching holidays.” Williams adds: “It may seem clichéd to make connections between photography and ornithology, but the correlations are clear. Birds are ordinary, wild creatures, but among their mass, there are special ones, members of a rare species, infrequent visitors to a specific area. To spot them, you must be patient and determined, obsessed enough to believe that what you are doing matters. In many ways, this exactly is how Parr behaved in relation to documentary photography.” Parr ends this description sequence of his youth by saying: “when I went on these trips, and my parents were leading the bird-watchers, I would, of course, be watching the bird-watchers.”
As it happens, also my father is a committed bird-watcher. He does not leave the kitchen window for hours, traces cats and keeps record of all species occupying the trees and water dishes in the garden. Since he retired two years ago, learning about birds behaviour and detecting cheeping soundscapes became his main field of interest. I don´t know if my father conveyed me the love of waiting, of minimizing oneself to let frail life come forth, but I for sure was not on birth-watching trips. But, the joy of looking and discovering, of searching and wondering, is there. I can just hope, I once have the skill to classify and record the human species the way Martin Parr does.