In Luke Stephenson’s Bold Portraits of Show Birds, the Personality Is in the Plumage

“Canary #13 (Gloster Corona, cock). All images © Luke Stephenson, licensed” (2017)

From charming robins and spritely blackbirds to a canary with a suave, natural bowl cut, Luke Stephenson’s portraits capture the fine feathers and downy details of exquisite show birds (previously). Using a customized, portable box with a perch inside, the artist captures each species’ distinctive personality and plumage in front of a variety of colored backgrounds.

For more than a decade, Stephenson traveled across the U.K. and the Netherlands to make the portraits, and over time, he experimented with ways to make the birds more comfortable and achieve the most compelling compositions. “I keep adapting (the boxes) to work better; the latest version allows me to spin the perch without putting my hand in the box and bothering the birds,” he tells Colossal.

Stephenson recently compiled a second volume of his popular book An Incomplete Dictionary of Show Birdsincluding all of the images that appeared in the first volume, plus 115 never-before-published portraits. Now based in Stockholm, he’s currently working on a project focused on Swedish traditions.

If you’re in California, you can spot a few of Stephenson’s birds in Still Life, a three-person show at Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, through February 10. Find more on the artist’s website, and follow him on Instagram for updates.


“Hawfinch #1” (2019)

Left: “Budgie #10” (2019). Right: “Japanese Thrush #1 (cock)” (2021)

“Agate Starling (hen) #1” (2019)

Left: Canary #10 (Yorkshire yellow)” (2017). Right: “Blackbird #1 (cock)” (2019)

“Bramble Finch #1 (cock)” (2017)

“European Robin #1” (2018)

Left: “Golden Song Sparrow #1 (cock)” (2018). Right: “Timor Sparrow #1” (2018)

“Linnet #1” (2017)

“Pagoda Starling #1” (2019)

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. The article In Luke Stephenson’s Bold Portraits of Show Birds, the Personality Is in the Plumage appeared first on Colossal.


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