The New York Pigeon

Andrew Garn / powerHouse Books / 144 pages

Photographer Andrew Garn’s book is a coffee table love letter to a bird that doesn’t always get much love. Garn explains their long history cohabitating with humans. He examines their physiology and development. He talks up their underrated intelligence. And he profiles pigeon people—the ones you see feeding the birds at the park or keeping coops on Brooklyn rooftops—who cherish these strutting, head-bobbing birds.

But the book’s main feature is its eye-popping pigeon portraits. We often see pigeons in a somewhat disheveled state as they suffer the soot, slings, and arrows of city life. Garn, however, shows them in a different light, gracefully navigating “the canyons of the city.” He also brings them into the studio for their closeups, and in so doing displays them in all their dazzling, multihued glory. His studio subjects are birds in or just out of rehab. Wild Bird Fund (WBF) Executive Director Rita McMahon—who contributed an afterword to the book—says that more than half the 6,000 birds her organization treats in a year are injured or lead-poisoned pigeons.

Garn, who volunteers for WBF, seeks to rehab their image, as well. The New York Pigeon: Behind the Feathers shows them as resilient city-dwellers, lovely to the eye and worthy of respect.