Monday, May 21, 2012

How The Chicken Conquered The World

Smithsonian's Director of Photography Molly Roberts and I had some reservations about this project for June's The Food Issue as we were analyzing the approach. Perhaps our expectations were so very low that it kind of put us at ease with it all. I don't think we really thought it would fly. No pun intended of course.

Calling stylist Shannon Amos and explaining the approach was essentially a five minute call that was as routine as ordering a pizza:

TA: Hi Shannon. Timothy here. Ok...so...I'm sorry but that first idea I had they weren't crazy about. Now what they want to do is dress up fresh chickens as historical characters...actual people throughout history. So...you know...we get a dead chicken, no head, ready to be cooked, and then dress it up as like...say....Julius Caesar...? Do you think this would work?

SA: They want to dress up chickens? Sure, I love chickens. Send me the names, it'll be fine.

TA: Ok. Thanks.

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Then a couple of days later here we are, doing just that. Dressing up chickens, figuring out which ones work without the head and which do not. When can you suspend your grasp on reality and project into this combination of dead meat and fabric and actually imagine a historical character there? For us it really was trial and error...with lots of characters just not working at all. And then the utterly inspired moments such as the creation of King Tut, which simply involved covering the naked chicken with gold spraypaint. Genius is simplicity, really.

In total we shot 9 characters. In my opinion only 5 were really fully realized and "worked". What would make it work? Well, the character had to be iconic, easy to recognize and really you had to suggest alot with as little as possible. When all of those things came together, it worked.

See the keepers in all their splendor HERE.


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