Our feathered friends are given due respect in a beautiful new photo book

It’s easy to take birds for granted.

Like anything you see daily, birds blend into the background – only interrupting our conscience when they peck at our favourite garden plants or steal your children’s chips at the seaside (we’re looking at you, seagulls). You’ll even find a ‘bird’ in miniature mechanical form on the dial of the new Bel Canto timepiece.

That’s why a new book, Birds, edited by Gemma Padley, is so timely.

A collection of avian portraits by some of the world’s best photographers, it shows birds for what they really are: exquisitely designed flying machines free to explore the world without the heavy hand of gravity to hold them back.

“They encourage us to look again at the wonders of the avian world”

The Magnificent Chicken by Tamara Staples

Some images are portraits that project their subjects’ personalities (The Magnificent Chicken by Tamara Staples, for example), while others place the birds in their environments – perching on power lines (parakeets) or fishing in a pond (flamingos).

There’s not just beauty here, though that’s in abundance, but drama, humour and pathos, too. Luke Stephenson’s Spreo Starling #1, 2019, has the same intimate and melancholic quality as Carel Fabritius’s 1654 painting, The Goldfinch.

Each photo set is accompanied by text from Padley, who adds essential information about the breed in question and the story behind the pictures.

“What unites all these projects is their ability to breathe new life into a timeless subject,” she says. “They artfully and playfully encourage us to look again at the boundless wonders of the avian world.”

Bird is published by Hoxton Mini Press; hoxtonminipress.com