The COCKS book showcased in The Observer UK.
The Observer | 06.04.14 |
These chickens certainly know how to strut their stuff, displaying ornate plumage as they strike bizarre and impressive poses. But these are only recent traits that have been selectively bred by humans within the last 50 years. Chickens are thought to have been domesticated around 7,000 years ago in south-east Asia. It was Charles Darwin who first suggested the red jungle fowl as the wild progenitor, but some experts now think there may have been multiple domestication events with differing species of wild fowl. The original purpose for domestication is thought to have been for the spectator sport of chicken fighting rather than cooking. It wasn’t until the Egyptians got their hands on them around 4,000 years ago that chickens started to become a food source, but they were still revered and mainly used for fighting. The Romans believed that chickens were in direct communication with Fate, and battles were often fought on a cock’s prophecy. This didn’t not stop them seeing chicken as a delicacy (or from inventing the omelette). Only in recent times have chickens become a major protein staple; 50bn are now raised annually.
It was a different side of the birds that intrigued Singaporean photographer Ernest Goh. While travelling in Malaysia, he discovered Ayam Serama chickens, and the unusual world of chicken beauty pageants. He explains: “Ayam Seramas are actually a type of ornamental chicken, so they are bred not for consumption, but purely for ornamental reasons.” Every week there is at least one pageant in Malaysia, where birds are judged not just on how they look, but also on how they walk. While Goh’s photos in Cocks: The Chicken Book look staged or forced, he is simply photographing them as they move about naturally. They’re the original funky chickens.
– Josh Davis