The wound is the place where the light enters: Leila Jeffreys

6 April - 13 May 2023

“My new exhibition is called ‘The wound is the place where the light enters’, which is a line from a Rumi poem. The poem speaks to the fact that pain reveals and helps us cherish what truly matters. We can only mourn what we deeply love.


The fires that tore through the east coast of Australia in the summer of 2019 gave rise to a moment of profound personal grief. I found myself turning inward.


From this time on, I began dreaming up a new mythology, one in which living creatures develop mental wounds that appear as physical markings. I had photographed the Bleeding Heart Dove as part of my Ornithurae series. I then set about creating an exhibition that focused on other birds with markings that appear to the human eye as wounds. These birds – which I feature in portraits, on branches and bonsai – have natural red markings; they appear to bleed, as if their bodies are manifesting the collective pain that is felt by this planet. Yet at the same time, they embrace their wounds with a spirit of openness and beauty."  

- Leila Jeffreys



Leila Jeffreys (born 1972, Papua New Guinea) is an Australian photographic and video artist, celebrated for captivating images of birds, which explore and subvert the traditions of portraiture. She photographs birds on a human scale and with the highest attention to detail, whether the rise and fall of a budgerigar’s plumage or the form and colour of a cockatoo’s beak. Working alongside conservationists, ornithologists, and bird sanctuaries, her work as an artist is inextricably linked to her concerns as an environmentalist.


“(Leila's) images are simultaneously serious and witty, gentle, and impactful; technically, they are quite miraculous. Her rapport with her subjects, her technical ingenuity, her eye for colour, form and composition and her expertise in the processes of fine art photography combine to create singular works that have often - alas - been imitated but have never come close to being equalled”. (Dr Sarah Engledow, Historian and Curator - National Portrait Gallery of Australia)


Monographs on Jeffreys work include Bird Love 2016, Abrams Books, USA/UK and Leila Jeffreys 2020, Editions Xavier Barral, France.


In 2019 Leila Jeffreys undertook her first expedition to the Arctic Circle at the invitation of British historian and explorer Dr Huw Lewis-Jones, where she encountered one of the most untouched and fragile parts of the world. Such opportunities to travel and experience wildlife in their natural habitat fuel both her creativity and her sense of urgency to protect it.