Alex ten Napel, a fine art photographer, is recognized for his gorgeous photographs—and he doesn’t only shoot human pictures. Ten Napel’s Chickens, Hens, and Roosters series demonstrates that our feathery companions can also be good models. The photos, which were shot against solid-colored backdrops (usually black or white), display the elegance and beauty of these creatures in great detail.
Ten Napel discovered in 2014 that he could use his 25 years of portraiture skills to create something unique. He was eating breakfast on the ground while on vacation in France when a chicken approached him. That’s when everything came together. “Because we were, in a sense, on the same level,” he explains to My Modern Met, “I observed her from a new viewpoint and recognized various characteristics.” “She was gregarious, witty, touching, and inquisitive.” She was really real! I was looking for a new subject to photograph at the same time. I’d done a lot of portrait series and felt like I needed to shift my direction. “So why not depict chickens and roosters?”
Ten Napel immersed himself into the endeavor wholeheartedly, eager to learn everything he could about his new subjects. This meant frequent visits to Barneveld’s Fowl Museum, where he could wander about their coops and see 17th-century paintings of poultry by renowned Dutch painters. He felt he’d uncovered something remarkable after intently examining the hens and roosters.
“I witnessed walking pieces of art,” says ten Napel. “They are adorned with magnificent feathers in a wide range of colors and designs.” They walk smoothly like catwalk models, dance softly like ballet dancers, and move acrobatically like gymnasts. It was a visual feast to see them.”
When he was ready, he set up a mobile picture studio in the barn of a breeder he’d met and got to work. What occurred next was just magical. Working with live animals was a new experience for the photographer, and the creative spark it sparked was obvious. He was ecstatic that, unlike people, these creatures don’t try to hide anything in front of the camera. For better or worse, they are just being themselves at all times.
Ten Napel’s love and respect for chickens, hens, and roosters is evident in his work. He captures it all, whether they are parading over the scene or plucking at their feathers. The degree of trust he creates with the birds may also be seen in their poses. Although it isn’t always easy to be patient, ten Napel takes his time to develop a relationship that only enriches his images.
He thinks that through observing the charm and individuality of these creatures, people may get a deeper appreciation for them. As he points out, not all of these hens have happy lives, therefore it’s his aim to see them get the love and care they need.
Fine art photographer Alex ten Napel captures exquisite images of birds in his Chickens, Hens, and Roosters series.
After an accidental encounter with a rooster while on vacation in 2014, he was inspired to utilize hens and roosters as models.
After carefully examining these creatures, he concluded they would be ideal subjects for a portrait series.
“I saw people who were walking pieces of art.”
“They walk beautifully as if they were catwalk models, dance softly as if they were ballet dancers, and move acrobatically as if they were gymnastics.”