Animals Art

15 Enchanting Chicken Portraits By Alex Ten Napel

Alex ten Napel has ventured into an unexpected niche within the expansive realm of photography, finding inspiration in the humble chicken. His journey into photographing these feathered beings started in 2014, leading to a series of stunning portraits that highlight the unique personalities and essence of these often overlooked animals.

Making the shift from capturing human emotions to the nuanced expressions of chickens presented Napel with a unique set of challenges. In a conversation with DeMilked, he shared his ambition to craft portraits that not only showcase the character and individuality of his subjects but also carry the emotional depth and soulfulness akin to his previous works with humans, including his Alzheimer’s and Water Portraits series. He aimed to create images that are not just visually appealing but also emotionally engaging and thought-provoking, capturing the viewers’ attention in a manner that creates a lasting impression and a deep connection with the imagery.

Explore his exceptional collection and delve deeper into his insights by reading our full interview with him.

Napel’s journey into poultry portraiture began with a serendipitous encounter with a chicken at a farm campsite in Spain. Reflecting on the moment, he says, “She was after the leftovers from my breakfast and was scratching around, cackling. I was immediately struck by that creature. Maybe it was because I was at the same height and saw the animal from a different perspective. She brought a sociable and pleasant atmosphere. I found her funny. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. ”

The photographer also drew inspiration from literature, particularly a novel where a Nobel Prize winner receives a rooster as a gift. Describing this inspiration, Napel notes, “The Nobel Prize winner thought it was something different to receive as a gift and took the animal home. In addition to being a pleasant pet, it was also a beautiful animal to look at. With its feathers in beautiful colors, he saw the rooster as a walking work of art. I started to delve more and more into the world of hens and roosters to investigate whether there was a possible topic for the coming years.

As we wondered how he found his amazing muses, the photographer revealed, “I visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and studied the work of Dutch bird painters. A famous genre in Dutch painting. I was able to see the different Dutch breeds in real life at the Poultry Museum in Barneveld. I took test photos. At poultry shows I made contact with poultry breeders and was able to see the most beautiful animals of the Dutch breeds. Proud of their animals and the interest of a photographer an appointment was quickly made. Soon I could load my equipment into the car and drive to a breeder in the countryside.”

Acknowledging the difficulty of photographing lively chickens, Napel emphasizes, “If it’s easy and everyone can do it, then there is no art to it. A hen or a rooster will not stand still when I ask them to. It also doesn’t hold a pose or look that I would like to photograph. They do not follow the photographer’s directions. They wander around and are completely themselves and unaware of the camera.” He shares his method of making initial contact with the animals, explaining, “I hold the animal and press it gently against me, and after a while, I put it on the table.”

Armed with a Hasselblad H5D-40 and an 80mm lens, Napel states, “I enjoy my own work and like to tinker with it in Photoshop.” Describing his meticulous approach, he adds, “I want to get a lot of detail, contrast, color, and sharpness from the raw file.”

Reflecting on his ten-year journey, Napel affirms, “The subject never bores me for a moment. I have been working with chickens for ten years now, and that will continue for a while. I print the portraits at 100 x 110 cm. They have unprecedented sharpness in detail and a rich color palette. Printed in such a large size, they have exceptional expressiveness.” His dedication to capturing the charm of these creatures is evident in the mesmerizing portraits he creates.

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Alex Napel’s journey into chicken portraiture is a testament to his ability to find inspiration in the unexpected and the seemingly ordinary. Through his lens, chickens are transformed into subjects of art, each portrait telling a unique story of personality and character. As Napel continues his exploration of this enchanting world, audiences can anticipate more captivating glimpses into the charm of chickens.

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