The ‘sport’ goes something like this: a single female pigeon is released, followed by an army of garishly painted male pigeons in hot pursuit. The winner is the one that spends the most time close to her, woos her chivalrously, happens to be the most courteous and, ultimately, possesses the most active reproductive instinct. Welcome to the world of pigeon racing, with a Spanish twist.

Photographer Ricardo Cases has turned his lens to this bizarre phenomenon, specific to the regions Murcia and Valencia, to create a set of images that find their perfect outlet in book form. Yet with its small size, stiff cardboard covers and spiral binding, Paloma al aire – Cases’ third monograph – is more akin to a scrapbook than a photobook.

Gracing the front cover are brightly-coloured pigeons offset against a whited-out backdrop, numbered as a means of identification. It also contains an oval cut-out, revealing the face of a man whose menacing expression suggests an air of competitiveness and reserve. Alone in a field, he holds a green, carrier box housing his prize-winning pigeon.

Clearly, the men – for this is an all-male activity – are as much the subject of the book as the birds they breed. In converting these dirty pests into objects of prestige, the owners obsess over their hobby, revealing their eccentric behaviour to the camera in the process.

Awash in highly-saturated colour and with surreal use of cropping, Paloma al aire is a technicolour dream – or nightmare. Its meanings and messages range from highlighting the pointlessness and ritual of the breeders’ hobby to offering an oddly captivating glimpse into the machismo, habits and lives of these men and their extravagantly pimped-up birds.

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