On February 15, the world wakes bloated with an excess of chocolate, supermarket roses and hyperbolic professions of love. On AnOther, the Valentine celebrations turned the whole site – including Loves – candy pink, so today there is undoubtedly dire need for a monochrome palette cleanser, which has come in the form of Marcin Ryczek’s stunning photograph of A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow, chosen by AnOther’s editorial assistant Tish Wrigley.
From ancient myth to modern fairytales, the swan is the focus for a great mass of myth and tradition, “the spotless bird whose whiteness, strength and grace have made it a living manifestation of light”. But a key part of the swan’s folklore is the separation of light and dark, as represented by the white and the black swan. This dichotomy is generally played as good versus evil, as in the Russian ballet Swan Lake, where Prince Siegfried falls in love with the bewitched swan queen Odette, only to be deceived into proclaiming his love for her malevolent doppelganger, the black feathered Odile. The swan’s allegorical heritage is full of stories of tragic love, transformation and the defeat of darkness by light. Here, by at once harnessing these concepts and eschewing them, Myczek’s monochrome shot transforms a totally unconscious subject performing a modest act into an image of great power and symbolism.
"Myczek’s monochrome shot transforms a totally unconscious subject performing a modest act into an image of great power and symbolism"
So following our heady foray in kaleidoscopic colour, today AnOther takes a step back into the calm of black and white, and talks to Wrigley about why she chose to Love this singular photograph.
Why did you choose to Love it?
It is an entirely unique moment in time. The photographer was walking across a bridge at the time, looked over the rail, and just happened to catch this extraordinary scene. The combination of so simple an act as feeding birds, with the symbolism of the stark colours and the exquisite composition is totally beguiling.
What's your favourite bird in fiction?
The Ugly Duckling has transformative charm, and the Pelican in Roald Dahl’s The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me makes excellently practical use of his gargantuan beak. But really it’s all about Iago in Aladdin.
Do you prefer colour or monochrome?
I’m currently performing a steady sartorial moonwalk away from rainbow shades towards black and white. The sad thing is that it makes everyone else look chic, while I am still unswervingly channeling “flustered waitress”.
Where's your favourite place to feed birds?
The lake at Castle Howard in Yorkshire. It was the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens, until a black swan gave me a savage peck while I was inattentively lobbing bread at it.
Swans are symbolic of dreaming. What's the last dream you had?
There is nothing so dull as someone recounting their dreams.