The chicken lady
Chickens seem to be everywhere these days — and I mean the ones that are alive and clucking not just making their way into my stocks and salads. Every few days I get a chicken update from one of the bloggers I follow on feedly: some days I find Jessie being attacked by the crazy Adolph, or Ashley might give us a sneak peek into the pages of her book on keeping chickens and 13 year old Orren Fox often amazes me with his thoughtful posts which lie at the intersection of food politics and chicken rearing.
But for me, The Chicken Lady will always be the talented Tamara Staples whose beautiful book The Fairest Fowl includes page after page of her portraits of fiesty feather legged bantams and regal silver sebrights and lots of other birds who make me gasp or laugh or wonder … all photographed against backdrops that might otherwise enhance some french lord in an oil painting at Versaille.
I actually met Tamara on the street one day several years ago (she is much more outgoing than me, or I’m sure we’d never have started talking) and the rest, as they say, is history. Recently Tamara decided to start taking chicken photographs again and I offered to accompany her (partly for the good times, the opportunity to handle exotic fowl and the chance to clean chicken droppings off high quality fabrics – but also, lets be honest, for the offer of a large, high quality, print of her work for my home).
In addition to visiting the amazing world of the championship chicken competitions, Tamara’s recent chicken photography has also included visits to the homes of some of their owners and I got to accompany her there too. I was amazed at the way people juggled their full time jobs with the demanding task of rearing large flocks of beautiful birds and still managed to grow magnificent gardens, breed african violets, or dabble in peacock husbandry. I felt a little pang of jealousy when I saw the kids growing up with their dogs, cats, chickens and turkeys to play with, not to mention being able to pluck wild blueberries out of the woods behind the house for a quick snack. And when we spoke to people who had raised their chickens for decades, it was a pleasure to hear how the hobby had brought joy and friendships into their lives. I think Tamara’s photos of the people with their flocks and coops beautifully captures these depths of their lives. One of the portraits was submitted to a photo contest, and you can vote for it here.
Tamara’s website includes lots more examples of her work, including plenty of photographs that are not of any sort of fowl! In fact she has some beautiful still life photographs that the food photographers amoung you will find inspiring, and I’m hoping to get her drunk one day and see if she’ll agree to share some of professional photography tips and tricks with all of us!