The Charm Of Chickens: 15 Enchanting Portraits By Alex Ten Napel

Published 7 months ago

In the vast world of photography, Alex ten Napel has discovered an unlikely muse – the unassuming chicken. The photographer’s decade-long exploration of these feathered creatures began in 2014, resulting in captivating portraits that encapsulate the essence and individuality of his clucking subjects.

Transitioning from human subjects to poultry posed challenges for Napel. In an interview with DeMilked, he expressed, “I didn’t know how I would photograph the animals, but I wanted to photograph them in such a way that they show a lot of their character and individuality. It had to be portraits like the ones I had made of people. Portraits with a heart and soul. Such as the Alzheimer’s and Water Portraits series. Portraits that stay with you because they touch and move you. Portraits that are beautifully lit and do justice to the subject. Not just beautiful to look at. The portraits must also fascinate and hold your attention. It’s hard to say what that is. But I want the viewer to have a click with my image. That he gets caught by it.”

Scroll below to check out some of his wonderful works and read the rest of his interview with us.

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Image source: Alex ten Napel

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. ”


Image source: Alex ten Napel

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.


Image source: Alex ten Napel

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.”


Image source: Alex ten Napel

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.”


Image source: Alex ten Napel

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.”


Image source: Alex ten Napel

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.


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel


Image source: Alex ten Napel

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.

Saumya Ratan

Saumya is an explorer of all things beautiful, quirky, and heartwarming. With her knack for art, design, photography, fun trivia, and internet humor, she takes you on a journey through the lighter side of pop culture.

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Alex Napel, chicken portraits, hens portraits, photography, portrait photography, rooster portraits
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