Test Ilkin


My childhood spent on the Absheron peninsula, deeply influenced my perception of the world and left a distinct imprint. I remember very well the time when every morning you could see hundreds of pigeons fluttering in the sky, and their owners sitting, usually, on the roofs of one and two-story houses and chasing them with long sticks. And there can’t have been any houses in Baku’s villages where pigeons weren’t kept. And even when moving each summer to the dacha they would take the pigeons with them. In the morning, in the rays of the rising sun, you could see fluttering birds and hear the sounds of flapping wings in the suburban stillness I identify myself with the Absheron and everything that’s connected with it. Pigeons have been kept domestically for millennia and for a multitude of reasons – for exhibiting, eating, racing and as recently as World War II they were famously used to send messages. 

Many fanciers (as they’re also known) simply find harmony in the company of the birds and this is also true of Baku’s pigeon keepers. Until recently, pigeon keeping was a popular pastime in the Azerbaijani capital and its nearby villages. There’s even an iconic local breed of pigeon called the Baku Tumbler, which is renowned for its flying abilities. Typically soaring so high as to disappear from sight, it remains in the air for up to eight hours, from time to time clicking its wings and performing acrobatic rolls. One obvious reason for the gradual disappearance of this subculture from central parts of the city is the quickly changing urban environment. Many of those old one- and two-story houses in areas like Sovetski street, for example, have been replaced by modern apartment blocks. Another factor is economic, as feeding, housing and guarding pigeons has become increasingly costly and onerous.


Shooting this project for several years, I myself fell in love with pigeons. I began to understand the passion for which people hold them. This is the feeling of peace that a person experiences while being with pigeons. Alienation from worldly concerns, a state of peace and meditativeness, some kind of rite of energy purification. It seemed to me that they identified themselves with pigeons. Gives them a sense of freedom, removes the shackles of earthliness from them, brings them closer to the blue sky.