I’ve just started photographing this story, but it’s universal subject matter is the perfect excuse to explore back alleys and knock on random doors.
I gave credence to the axiom that “pigeons are no more than rats with wings” until I researched the rooftop pigeon fanciers of Cairo. I talked my way up to one of the ubiquitous wood slat roosts that are visible across the city and have learned that their obsession reaches across the region, lasts for generations, and has created some amazing birds.
These fanciers can spend decades breeding in desirable characteristics which involves hours every day on the roof, but also time in community coffee-houses; trading birds across neighborhoods, and more recently, online; trading bird across borders.
Birmingham Rollers, Baghdadis, Turkish Tumblers, Iranian High Flyers, and Egyptian Swifts are just a few of the more than 200 distinctive breeds each with their own region, flight style, and physical beauty. And they are historically important. The first pigeons were domesticated in Ancient Egypt, about 3000 BC, and have been used as pets and workers ever since. For example the sultan of Baghdad established a pigeon post system in AD 1150.
The scope of the story can range from a single man in Cairo to across the region and history.
I want to approach the photos in two styles. First, the traditional photo story of the pigeon fanciers and the communities they build, but, in between those photos I’d like to make a series of studio-portraits of the most beautiful of the birds.
I’ve gotten a bit carried away with the research and can write much more detail about what I’ve seen and read and the logistics but I’d like the feedback and ideas of editors and pigeon fanciers. One of my favorite tidbits is this 1883 New York Times Article about a Pigeon Village in Egypt. To see the scale of this hobby take a gander at Wikipedia’s list of pigeon breads.