Daniel Handal seeks exotic bird keepers in New York City. When he finds them, he visits their homes with a portable studio that resembles a small triangular tent with a perch. He also carries a variety of pastel-colored backdrops. Once he meets the bird to be photographed, Handal picks a backdrop to match the bird’s colors and character. After the excitement has settled and the tiny subject is at rest, he shoots the portrait.
The series, called Pajaritos, is on view at ClampArt through July 7.
Birds, many of which soar far above the earth, represent the idea of freedom. With his work, Handal embraces this idea and utilizes birds in a path to self-acceptance. Handal was raised in Honduras where “pajaros” is a derogatory term for gay men. Growing up in a machismo Hispanic culture, the photographer struggled with his own sexuality as a youth and “worried about his ability to be true to himself amidst the stringent societal pressure to conform,” writes the gallery in the press release.
With Pajaritos, Handal says in a statment that he acknowledges the constrictive idea that “colors define gender—blue for boys, pink for girls.” A the same time, the work prominently features the liberating realization that he can defy conventional portrayals of gender by belying the delicate beauty of birds with the flamboyant use of pastel colors. The images act as a “deconstruction of gender roles,” says Handal.
The portraits are Handal’s way of transforming pretty into a statement of rebellion. He explains that “the angelic beauty of canaries and finches resting on a perch in front of immaculate pastel-colored backgrounds are as much a statement of grace as a state of defiance.”
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How To Land Photo Assignments from Audubon Magazine (for PDN subscribers; login required)