Luke Stephenson is an artist known for his very particular, witty take on British life but one of his most celebrated departures from that genre is his series of portraits of birds, his ‘Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birds’.
His curiosity has enabled him to access communities and places a little hidden from the mainstream developing projects such as The Clown Egg Register (clown character designs), 99x99s (the typically British ice cream in its many variations), the English Rose (in fact, not so English, after all) and what turned out to be a surprisingly widespread national pastime, bird keeping.
“It all started when I decided I wanted to take pictures of budgies,” Stephenson explains. “I was influenced by the photography of prized pigeons, which is very formulaic, and I wanted to apply that to budgies ...” After contacting a breeder in London, he went on to spend the following 3 years photographing very un-British birds.
Beyond the striking colours these tiny but very distinct personalities are given, a certain nobility in his portraits. We are up close to creatures we rarely get to look in the eye or even notice and through his lens we see something intriguing and fragile.
Luke has been awarded the Jerwood Photographic Prize and has consulted on campaigns for Apple, Adidas, Channel 4, Sony, Liberty and Selfridges among others.