I worked at a Leicester University for four years and close by a river eased through the city which provided a welcome lunchtime diversion for people. Inevitably many went to feed the local wildlife, there were volumes of Mute Swans which people migrated to but it was the large pigeon colonies that caught my attention and imagination.
I must admit that through my life I’ve largely regarded pigeons more or less as rats with wings. They are a much maligned creature, seen as vermin in many city centres, scavengers that would die trying to grab your last crumb. Over a couple of years though I enjoyed watching the local birds in Leicester because at closer quarters they made for incredibly interesting subjects, so I decided to finally break with my landscape traditions and set about developing a project that would test me technically too. And so The Lunch Club was born.
Most appealing to my eye was the flock mentality yet they demand and rarely impede each other’s space, then there was the pure visual confusion and conundrum you get with large numbers of birds which at a casual glance seemed identical (they’re definitely as individually unique as you and I). In truth there was hierarchy, structure and organisation, individual character, comedy, greed, a presence of mind that’s both selfish and caring all at the same time. In many respects I genuinely saw a huge number of human traits in these birds whether we would like to admit those characteristics or not, in fact I even found some research from the Imperial College London which suggested that the way pigeons think is very much aligned to our own thought processes. They are definitely not as stupid as we might automatically think and that makes for an incredibly appealing subject – once you throw in a pair of wings, it’s a photographic challenge too.