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PRINT December 2019

books

Harry Dodge

A jolt of pleasure runs through my chest each time I look through Stephen Gill’s monograph The Pillar (Nobody Books), which consists of 120 photographs mostly of birds in various moments of liftoff and landing. (A separate pamphlet proffers a short, stirring essay titled “Birdland,” by Karl Ove Knausgaard.) Gill attached a motion-sensor camera to a rural fence and for three years captured images of creatures who might come to rest on a nearby post (the titular pillar). The results are chaotic and riveting.

Shot mechanically, bodilessly, the photos exude a goopy, persistent extrinsicity. Rarely is an animal actually on the post or fully in the frame. Several birds’ feathered heads appear to be upside down, just impossibly twisted. (Are they hurt?) A kestrel’s wing is outstretched while the other is folded. (Is this bird busted?) A jackdaw’s face—eyes bulging, pupils dilated, beak

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