It's not too often we get the opportunity to express our appreciation for the magnificence of the chicken. Not its delicious or nutritious qualities, but its elegance, grace and dignity. Although the feathered wonders are more often acknowledged as little more than poultry, photographer Tamara Staples captures the wild beauty of the under-appreciated birds.
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Her series "The Magnificent Chicken" puts show chickens of various breeds in the spotlight, rendered in the style of Dutch high society portraits. Birds including Black Japanese Bantam Cocks and Red Naked Neck Large Fowl Cocks are captured in all their glory, posing proudly before decadent fabrics that bring out their individual particularities. Just as appealing as the fancy backdrops accenting the chickens' beauty are the creatures' natural ability to steal the show all in themselves, emanating an unlikely and undeniable poise. In their bodies you'll detect a cool elegance and in their faces you'll recognize a strangely human expression, complete with a gaze that just may pierce your soul.
Staples attended her first poultry show over 20 years ago with her Uncle Ron, a chicken breeder. "I remember stepping inside and being blown away by the birds," Staples told Slate. "They were gorgeous! And the show itself -- the people, the smell, the sounds, the camaraderie of the shows and the beauty of the birds -- who knew there were so many varieties of chickens beyond what you think about when they’re on your dinner plate?"
As you'll quickly see, these chickens are works of art in themselves, from their radiant plumage to their plump physiques. "Chickens this amazing don't just happen," Ira Glass wrote in a piece accompanying Staples' images. "People help them along -- breed them, nurture them, take them from the humble coop to the top of the poultry world."
Yes, apparently the poultry world is a thing, and after perusing the fruits of the niche universe below you'll begin to see why.
Enter the strangely bewitching world of cocks and hens below and, if you're in the mood for a second helping of chicken, check out Ernest Goh's series of chicken pageants for a different take.