As It Happens

Italian photographers showcase 'top model' chickens in new coffee table book

Matteo Tranchellini and Moreno Monti created a coffee table book called CHICken to showcase the natural beauty of the ubiquitous birds.
Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini photographed 'beautiful' chickens for their new book CHICken. (Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini)

This article was published on March 8, 2018.

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Breathtaking landscapes. Timeless art masterpieces. Big shiny photographs of big shiny humans.

You put coffee table books featuring any of the above in your living room and they say: "These giant books I never open reflect my taste." But do they also say say something else? Do they, perhaps say, "I'm boring"?

A new coffee table book by two Italian photographers will definitely not say that. It's designed solely to showcase the beauty of chickens.

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As It Happens host Carol Off spoke with Matteo Tranchellini, and his work partner, Moreno Monti, about their unusual book called CHICken, which they funded through a Kickstarter campaign. 

Here is part of their conversation.

Matteo, why did you decide to photograph these beautiful chickens?

This is our passion because we have a studio in Milano with a little garden. We want to have some pets. We decide to buy some chicken, some little chicken, beautiful chicken — a cocincina —​ not a popular chicken.

When we buy the chicken, we contact the farmer and the farmer invite us to photograph some chicken in an exhibition.

The work start in the exhibition because we start to photograph some chicken and we understand this animal is incredible —​ like model. 

(Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini)

But these are like vogue fashion art pictures of these chickens. These are exquisite.

Yeah, because when the farmer asked us to photograph the chicken we realized that chickens are like model — top models. In this moment, we understand that the shooting is very different from the start of the work.

We are interested in the beauty of this animal. In this exhibition, there was many, many chickens. We choose some chickens.

When we start with one exhibition we wanted to go to another one and another one, more. When we had 300 photographs of many, many chickens, we realized we had many material to make … we don't know what. 

A book —​ finally, yes. You have just the most amazing chickens. Did you know there were so many different kinds?

No. We discovered at the exhibition. We don't know so much about chicken, rooster and everything. We discovered many, many people are passionate about this animal. We were in front of the top models. 

(Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini)

How much co-operation did you get from these chickens?

When the chicken was on the stage they stay five, 10 minutes maximum, because there was the flash, the camera, people around. The chicken make what they want. After 10 minutes, it's impossible to shoot them.

Do you think they liked having all this attention?

I think yes, because you can see on the picture. They are like a star, an actress, a model. You can see in every animal the character of the animal. 

(Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini)

They strut quite a bit. Did you get roosters or just chickens?

Many rooster and many chicken. Half and half, I think.

Did any of your models become dinner?

No, no, no. Absolutely no. This kind of chicken are only for beauty.

Did you harvest their eggs?

Yes, yes. Not too much because the selection is only for the beauty. 

(Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini)

Now, I saw a video of you and your partner, of you and Moreno, and you were speaking chicken to one another. You talk chicken?


Alright, can you speak chicken for us?


(Moreno Monti joins conversation: "Moooh-bah-bow-bow-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bow-moh-moh-bah-bah-bow-bow.")

That's wonderful! They have taught you many, many words these chickens.

You understand?


Written by John McGill. Interview produced by Anna Cianni. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Matteo Tranchellini — and his chicken-talking work partner, Moreno Monti.