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The Making of Playing God

One of the things I am drawn to as a photographer is how we choose to spend our free time and what that says about us as a consequence. So I guess choosing to shoot 5 or 6 bird shows in the lower South Island in the winter of 2016 says plenty about me, but how else was I to find out what it was all about?

My original plan was to photograph the owners with their birds, but the birds are so extraordinary it soon became apparent that they had to be the stars of this show.

This is perhaps because these birds aren't just any birds; they are the consequence of generations of selective breeding and so are being measured against an ideal - one that is not reflective of nature, but of our own specie's ideas of what they should look like. Whether or not it is in the bird's interests doesn't appear to be a factor so, much like the bulldog that can't breathe properly because its face has been squashed by selective breeding, we have birds that have also been evolutionarily compromised for our edification. Which is why the dove here throws its head so far back its vision is largely obscured - hardly a good strategy for staying out of a cat's mouth (but then of course these birds rarely leave a cage).

Later, when looking at the work on my computer, another evolution took place; it had been my intention to play it straight and go with the backdrop and setting I shot on the day. However, not being particularly knowledgeable of poultry I think I underestimated just how much they tend to shit, which left me with a big cleanup job on Photoshop and before long I was replacing my backgrounds altogether. It just happened. You can see this process in this sequence: 

That shadow in the last image came at heavy cost. Despite having a high quality 16bt file, I could not avoid banding - I think I have found Photoshop's Achilles Heel. In the end, and after much angst, I came up with a cunning work-around and so was able to apply the finishing touches:

You can buy this print by clicking on the image (provided there are editions remaining) or check out what else is for sale at my shop by going here.

Alternatively, check out the original essay here.



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