April 3, 2014 at 8:12 AM ET
Ernest Goh sees Malaysia’s hallmark fowl for what they are: “supermodels of the chicken world.”
The 35-year-old photographer and visual artist from Singapore recently released a book showcasing the beauty, pride and quirkiness of Malaysia’s Ayam Serama chickens. The birds get bred for their appearance — not their meat — and many of them strut their stuff at what amount to chicken beauty pageants.
“The breeders are always proud of their chickens.” Goh told TODAY.com. “Breeders tend to be only men, and extensive grooming preparations are done the day before competitions.”
Goh discovered the unusual world of chicken competitions while traveling through Malaysia. A chicken enthusiast he met there introduced him to Tuan Hassan, a master Ayam Serama breeder and trainer. Goh has always been interested in ways that animals seem to act like humans — and, before long, a photography project was born.
Hassan taught Goh about the Ayam Seramas’ trademark walk. The chickens pull back their wings, push up their chests and break out in their own version of a runway strut. Goh said it fascinated him “that the Serama’s natural behavior is like a human fashion model when it 'performs' on stage.”
Goh said people around the world can learn a lot from the relationship between Malaysian chicken breeders and their beloved Ayam Seramas.
“Animal-human relationships are complex but one thing is for sure: animals (no matter what species) are cared for when humans regard them as beautiful and precious,” Goh said. “So if more people can learn to see the beauty in more animals, then perhaps there is a much greater chance to protect our valuable natural resources. Everything is connected in one way or another.”