Collecting things is always something I have been trying to do with small success; I started with cans, moved to comics, records and photobooks but I have never managed to take any of it that seriously or, at least, I never got obsessed. Just as for many other people the passion would slowly die out or would never really lift off. And so I would basically just gradually stop.
Nonetheless, I am quite interested in the human pleasure of preserving and cataloguing objects regardless of their actual economic value. We are able to feel attached to pretty much anything, from beer pads to fridge magnets – I suppose it makes us feel that we found our niche and we are in control.
What I never thought of getting into was collecting animals. This is exactly the reason I felt attracted by this little book by Luke Stephenson: An Incomplete Dictionary Of Show Birds. The title itself is quite self explanatory: it’s basically a collection of 60 portraits of show birds introduced by a short foreword by Michael Smith and followed by an appendix containing the list of species appearing in the photographs.
The simple cover design (that comes in 4 different versions) puts the subject at centre stage relegating the title to the spine. No need for words. I liked this unassuming touch that, in my case, worked as a perfect teaser. The rest of the book design mimics the cover: page after page of pastel colour images in an attempt to catalogue but also describe a dying hobby.
“Bird fancying is a bit like growing giant leeks: people don’t really know why they do it, they just do.” - Michael Smith
In a way this is a project about a subculture. The author apparently spent a lot of time contacting bird breeders and traveling around UK in order to produce these images. He ended up discovering a world of collectors and enthusiasts who would meet at shows and organise events while he himself became just another type of collector, in this case a photography one.
Elegant and minimalist, this photobook is a really interesting take on portrait photography or, at least, on a specific photography niche with its rules and cultural references that most of people know absolutely nothing about.Read More