In his series Chickens, Hens and Roosters, photographer Alex ten Napel takes spectacular photos of roosters and hens.
Photographer Alex ten Napel is known for his beautiful portraits, but they aren’t necessarily of humans. With his series Chickens, Hens and Roosters, Ten Napel proves that our feathered friends can also be great role models. The portraits, taken on neutral colored backgrounds (normally black or white), show the elegance and beauty of these animals in great detail.
In 2014, Ten Napel realized that he could translate his 25 years of experience taking portraits into something new. He was sitting on the floor having breakfast while on vacation in France when a chicken came up to him. It was then that everything fell into place.
“Because we were, in a way, on the same level, I saw it from a different perspective and I looked at other aspects,” he says.
“She was outgoing, funny, touching and curious. She was so human. At the same time, she was looking for a new subject to photograph. She had done many series of portraits and I had the idea that she had to change course. So why not portray roosters and chickens?
Ten Napel threw herself into the project with enthusiasm, learning all she could about her new subjects. This led to long visits to the Poultry Museum in Barneveld, where he was able to walk through his chicken coops and see 17th-century paintings of poultry by great Dutch painters. After carefully observing the roosters and chickens, he knew that he had found something special.
“I saw walking works of art,” recalls Ten Napel. “They are dressed in beautiful feathers of a wide variety of colors and patterns. They walk gracefully like models on a catwalk, dance delicately like ballet dancers, and move acrobatically like gymnasts. Watching them was quite a spectacle.”
When he felt ready, he set up a mobile photo studio in the barn of a breeder he had been in contact with and got to work. What happened next was magical. The spontaneity of working with live animals was new to the photographer, and the creative spark he ignited was palpable. He loved that these animals, unlike humans, didn’t try to hide anything from the camera. They are simply themselves at all times, for better or worse.
Ten Napel’s appreciation and respect for chickens, hens and roosters is reflected in his work. Whether they are strutting across the scene or plucking their feathers, the photographer captures it all. The level of trust he develops with the birds is also evident in his poses. While being patient isn’t always easy, Ten Napel takes his time bonding with the birds, something that only enhances his portraits.
Ten Napel hopes that others will see the charm and personality of these animals and somehow appreciate them more. As he points out, not all of these chickens have wonderful lives, so his wish is that they get the love and attention they deserve.