Anjès Gesink’s bird sanctuary portraits show humans offering a healing hand

The Dutch photographer started volunteering at the Vogelklas Karel Schot bird sanctuary in Rotterdam

Gillian Orr
Saturday 03 October 2015 17:27
This pheasant had a muscle contraction in its feet
This pheasant had a muscle contraction in its feet

Held by a hand covered in a blue plastic glove, these birds – injured, weak, and nervous – are completely at the mercy of the humans who look after them.

In April 2012, the Dutch photographer Anjès Gesink started volunteering at the Vogelklas Karel Schot bird sanctuary in Rotterdam, where birds are brought in for various reasons: having fallen out of their nests, flown into building windows, been attacked by cats, or been caught in fishing gear left in rivers.

In April, many of the birds that arrive are young ones that have lost their parents. The sanctuary requires a number of what it calls "feeding mums", as the birds have to be given food every 15 minutes. Gesink decided to start photographing the various visitors and extended her volunteering period for longer than the busy summer.

"I enjoyed it so much. I started to do other tasks, too, such as giving the birds their medicine," says the 34-year-old. "It is strange because at first you would just think a bird is a bird, but if you spend time with them every day, you see them growing up and you realise they all have their own little character."

Gesink chose to include the human hands in the pictures because she wanted to drive home the message that the birds usually end up in the sanctuary due to human interference and as a result of living in the city – but also that it is humans that can offer a healing hand.

"I hope that it makes people think twice about how their actions can interfere with the birds' environment," she says, "but I also wanted to show the kindness and love that they receive."

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