Feeding The Birds is a candid photograph taken at Marble Arch, London in late 2013. It is an image of one lady feeding a flock of pigeons which had congregated at the landmark.
The woman was braving the cold autumn weather, wearing a head scarf and jacket. Her hands were buried deep in her coat pockets, and periodically she would pull a handful of seed from within and scatter it on the ground for the birds to peck at.
That afternoon the swirl of life in London continued around her: double-decker buses rumbled down nearby Oxford Street, while tourists and travellers stopped to have their photos taken in front of the arch.
But this woman was not put off. Her focus was on the birds.
As a child growing up, the film Mary Poppins was a regular on our television screen. The woman in this photograph reminds me of the famous scene in that movie, where Mary Poppins sings to the children a melodic lullaby about a quirky old lady feeding the birds ‘on the steps of St Paul’s’.
For me this photograph is alluring because of how it shows a simple side to life in London; a moment of connection between human and animal amid a jungle of concrete, engines, and drizzling rain.
I wonder who this woman is, where she is now, and of her story; why she wanted to feed the birds, and how she felt as they fluttered around her head, eager for a peck of seed.
No doubt these questions will forever remain unanswered; but with this photograph, this brief moment of life in England’s capital will live on.
Photograph: Robert Virtue
Words: Robert Virtue