Halcyon Song | Justin Coombes | Granta Magazine

Halcyon Song

Justin Coombes

A ‘halcyon’ is a mythical bird, often identified as a kingfisher, said to calm the wind and waves from its floating nest, and so was a natural choice of protagonist for my work, where I often fuse the fantastical and the everyday. Here, the pictures show the viewpoint of a female kingfisher as she searches for nesting sites along the length of London’s Regents Canal which runs along my commute from flat to studio.

When I first conceived of ‘Halcyon Song’, I was reading James Joyce’s Ulysses and wanted to make a project that similarly described a daily, familiar journey of some sort. From this, I developed the idea of the kingfisher’s search for a nest taking place over the course of a day, and this day being a microcosm of her world and a greater search for home and for meaning.


The full ‘Halcyon Song’ project is a series of photo-text vignettes that combines Justin Coombes’s photographs, a selection of which are shown here, with his poetry. It forms both an exhibition and book. Further information including details on sales of prints and books can be found at: www.paradiserow.com

Justin Coombes

Justin Coombes has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally. Collections include the Government Art Collection, Ernst and Young and the David Roberts Art Foundation. Numerous awards and grants include the Arts and Humanities Research Board, 2011. He is a PhD candidate in Fine Art by Practice at the Royal College of Art and a tutor at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford. Further information including details on sales of prints and books can be found at: www.paradiserow.com.

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