Yesterday I visited Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, which has a beautiful photograph of a pigeon in flight by Roe Ethridge. It’s part of a series of pigeon photographs using birds trained for work at Universal Studios. Here’s another one that I love; it has the softness and creamy stillness of the portraits of fancy pigeons in Stephen Green-Armytage’s book Extraordinary Pigeons, but captured in the arcs and extended lines of flight. Compare that to this photo in which the mild pigeon looks almost sinister, its toes like curled talons. Pigeons in flight are quite beautiful, but you almost have to freeze the frame like this to get people to see them in a new way. And I do think that using pigeons with nontraditional colors like white and brown also makes it much easier for us to see their beauty. In my opinion, the assumption that pigeons are dirty is exacerbated by their gray coloring, which makes them seem as if they were born of asphalt and concrete. Even in a street pigeon must keep its feathers clean in order to stay healthy, yet we see the color and imagine it’s coated in a layer of soot.
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