Photography of the seemingly mundane, or the practically unseen in nature is what I truly enjoying scouting out. I am fond of those winged things, the shiny and the tiny hiding under leaves and building nests under your eaves. Eavesdroppings indeed. Winter approaches and I hope for the hungry red cardinal landed on a birdseed laden, snowdrift railing, or the clutch of deer whisper-quiet except for their hooves crunching through the forest nearby. To catch something burrowing and to see its eyes glinting back at mine.
There’s a large farm across the street and could surely catch some creatures there when winter makes most animals scarce until Spring, but my thoughts of farm are quite the opposite direction of wild . . . I recently posted a picture of a cow, scrawled a long journal entry about the removed process of procuring food and such thoughts about animals and the environment and our respect for habitat and hunger. And no – I don’t wear Greenpeace underwear and you won’t catch me riding alongside whaling boats or swearing off meat, or chaining myself to trees, or setting fire to my angora blend winter gloves, or saving a near-dead species of bird by harvesting eggs, or developing a therapy group for tortured vegetables because you can hear them scream when they are pulled from the soil.
No – I am still talking photography here – making personal, perhaps even anthropomorphosizing animal life. For example . . .
“Humans have turned chicken and turkey into what we want them to be – which means that chickens and turkeys are a mirror of ourselves.”
Chickens are not just food. They are not just filthy bird-brained creatures that are tasty with lettuce and tomato and mayo on a bread roll, or good with stuffing – dressing, as some of you may call it. They also make for good photography. Or so I learned today while driving into work and hearing the most compelling story on the radio. Tamara Staples is a photographer who dedicated an entire book to prize chickens. The Fairest Fowl is a book which contains “dozens of fashion-runway-style portraits [that] capture the quirky personality and undeniable grace of these noble birds.” She took photos of animals who do NOT meet “The Standard of Perfection” at the American Poultry Show, which is essentially, the beauty pageant of the barnyard. The book includes an essay called “Trying to Respect a Chicken” which is also the fourth audio segment of a four part show called Poultry Slam by Ira Glass of This American Life.
Poultry Slam is an annual program about turkeys, chickens, and fowl of all types. The show airs every year after Thanksgiving and before Christmas because it is this time of year when poultry consumption is highest.