Most city-dwellers think of pigeons as nothing more than a nuisance. We curse their droppings and avoid their grimy environs, wishing they would not roost on our rooftops. Especially in New York City, where they are ubiquitous, the common pigeon is renowned for disease, filth and banality. Sometimes referred to as winged rats, to many, “city” and “pigeon” have become synonymous. “Messengers” is a series of “portraits” that challenges the assumptions about our urban, avian counterparts.
The photographs were taken at the Wild Bird Fund, New York City’s only wild bird rehabilitation center for sick and injured birds. The original intention of the series was to photograph exotic creatures and migratory birds that are brought in for treatment. The easily overlooked convalescing pigeons of New York City turned out to be the most compelling. “Messengers” includes pigeons with myriad injuries and illnesses that reflect some of the dysfunctions of a large city --pollution, lack of clean water, neglect, and human cruelty. Ailments vary from birds soaked in oil from feeding under food trucks to broken limbs, malnutrition, or neurological damage from lead poisoning. One pigeon in the series, found on Pearl Street, was being treated because someone dyed it pink and left it for dead.
The unique birds set in their metal cages with water receptacles and perching bricks took on a still life quality that enhanced the images of the birds and expressed their singular, diverse characters. From their cages, the pigeons compel us to see more in them than just an anonymous and mass existence.