’An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds’ by Luke Stephenson
They may not be sexy in the traditional sense, but birds have been shaking their tail-feathers for eager photographers’ lenses ever since the Audubon Society began publishing its field guides in the days of ’Watch the birdie’.
British portraitist Luke Stephenson is no exception, though show birds are more his type. His most recent photographic tome is devoted to capturing those kept beauties at their best, starting with the budgie: ’accessible, familiar and wonderfully beautiful’.
As Michael Smith, journalist and contributor to ’The Culture Show’, writes in the book’s forward: ’They live in an overlap between the natural and manmade worlds, and say as much about the culture that created them as they do about nature.’
Compiled with anti-Audubon crispness by the London-based design studio YES, Stephenson’s ’An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds’ is a project that grew into an obsession, with each new conquest, from finch to parrot, more alluring than the last. ’There are so many more I would love to photograph, which is why it is "incomplete",’ says Stephenson. ’It’s something I imagine I’ll return to throughout my life, a never-ending project that could become my life’s work.’
He will keep interesting company with enthusiastic owners (’mostly men’, says Stephenson), some of whom have been keeping birds their entire life and eschew holidays between shows like concerned parents.
Their passion is understandable. The subjects, annotated in the book with both their English and Latin names, are either brazenly colourful or deceivingly neutral, with brash colour peeking out from under wings or bellies like lingerie.
Interested birders can choose one of four limited-edition covers by sending a message Stephenson’s way - via Twitter, of course.