How do we decide which animals are family and which are food? Why are we surprised to see a rooster gazing out the kitchen window or a hen studying herself in the mirror? After all, chickens are present in many homes, as flesh and eggs, but not as individuals with personalities of their own.
In early 2017, photographer Janet Holmes met a hen suffering from reproductive illness at the Wild Bird Fund in New York City, where she volunteered as a caregiver. During her search to find a permanent home for the hen, Holmes discovered a network of people (primarily women) who turn their homes into sanctuaries for rescued chickens. Her portraits of the chickens and their rescuers honor both the birds who had suffered so much before their rescue and the people who invested so much love, time, and money caring for them.
Janet Holmes: “I have always loved animals, but for many years I was afraid to get involved with rescuing them because I couldn’t face the heartbreak. I was almost fifty when I finally acknowledged that animals needed me more than I needed to be comfortable. And so I began volunteering with animal rescue groups, mainly as a photographer. The thing I love most about photographing animals is discovering their ‘who-ness’.
The chickens have taught me about grace and resilience, to be fully in the moment, to stretch in the sunlight, and to come running when someone offers treats. Their guardians have taught me about the many ways we humans have exploited chickens to satisfy our appetites, appease our gods, and entertain ourselves. In making this book, one of my challenges has been how to handle the dichotomy between the joy, beauty, and humor reflected in many of the portraits and the unsettling stories that most of the chickens’ caregivers shared with me. To do justice to these beautiful birds, who have suffered so much, and their human guardians, who have worked so hard, loved so deeply and lost so much, I’ve combined the portraits with short memoirs from five of the rescuers I photographed. In their own words, Michelle Carrera, Maddie Cartwright, Julia Magnus, Rockwell (Rocky) Schwartz, and Ashley Snyder will tell you about the exhilaration, grief, kinship, and hope they’ve experienced rescuing and sharing their lives with chickens.”
Janet Holmes – Nest Rescued Chickens at Home . Hardcover 24 x 22 cm 120 pages, 54 color illustrations, English, available ISBN 978-3-86828-987-9 2020 . Artist/Texts: Michelle Carrera, Maddie Cartwright, Janet Holmes, Janelle Lynch, Julia Magnus, Rocky Schwartz, Ashley Snyder, Kathy Stevens . Design: Kehrer Design (Loreen Lampe) . GoSee: janetholmesphoto.com/nest-the-kickstarter & janetholmesphoto.com/blog