A photographer who has taken studio portraits of chickens for the last eight years says he is “captivated” by them.
Alex ten Napel’s series of hens and roosters has become all-encompassing for the Dutch photographer who tells PetaPixel that “it is the only thing I do for now.”
“Photographed like this you do not see a walking, cackling piece of meat or an egg producing machine,” he says. “You look in the eyes of a living creature. A hen, or a rooster.”
Ten Napel says the chickens “become individuals and get a character.” The portraits “get a heart and soul,” he adds.
When setting out on the project Ten Napel wanted to emulate the 17th-century Dutch bird painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter.
“In his portraits, the birds look as individuals and it is as if you are looking at people,” explains Ten Napel.
“This aspect of his portraiture and the enchanting beauty through his use of light and color were in my mind whenever as I thought about the series.”
Another reason for Ten Napel’s chicken series is that he had grown tired of photographing people after 25 years of taking portraits.
“This aspect of his portraiture and the enchanting beauty through his use of light and color were in my mind whenever as I thought about the series,” he says.
“Photographing hens and roosters and unraveling their personalities appears to be a good substitute. Hens and roosters cannot be directed and they do not act, hide, or pretend. Hens and roosters simply look natural and beautiful.”
Ten Napel has shot many different breeds of chicken often capturing them in graceful, almost ballerina-esque poses.
“Photographing is unexpected, exciting, and out of control. How it should be,” he says.
“Every time they teach me a lesson to be patient and to wait for the right moment. Hens and roosters understand photography better than the photographer. They tell me to wait, look, see, understand, and then shoot.”
He adds that hens and roosters are “funny, full of beauty” and believes anyone will “fall in love with them instantly.”
More of Ten Napel’s work can be found on his website.
Image credits: Photographs by Alex ten Napel