Books full of pussycats, tweety birds and other happy animals always go down well, but this book dishes up something completely different. As indicated by the subtitle, it gives us ‘avian misery in the big city’: birds attacked, wounded, battered, injured, bitten by the cat, frozen fast in the ice, birds starved, bitten, overheated, exhausted or orphaned. The photographer works as a volunteer at the Vogelklas Karel Schot bird sanctuary in Rotterdam, where every year some eight thousand injured birds are brought in, patched up where possible, and let loose again. The book illustrates this avian suffering in dry, almost encyclopedic style. Page after page we see the damaged bird on the right, sometimes almost full size, with explanatory text on the left.
Anjès Gesink has photographed the birds dispassionately and objectively: they are held up – or down – by a hand in a blue rubber glove, against a white background. This clinical approach returns in the captions, which use neutral terms to tell us briefly what we are looking at: the nature of the injury, the species of bird, when the photo was taken, the cause of the injury, how the bird came to be brought in, and the outcome of its sojourn in the sanctuary.
The concept has been well executed down to the last detail, from the careful photography, spare typography, and choice of paper to the immaculate lithography and printing. The only point of criticism is the gimmick of the loose photo inside the cover. What is it doing there? What was the idea or plan behind it? How does it tie in with the strong and well-executed concept of the interior?