The simple shift of a camera can make a portrait look completely different—especially when it comes to our feathered friends. We're used to seeing birds photographed from a profile or three-quarter view that highlights their glorious beaks. But as photographer Ruurd Jelle van der Leij shows in his series Frontals, capturing birds from a straight-on vantage point significantly alters how they appear—and it just might make you laugh.
When photographed from the front, a bird's beak becomes distorted. Suddenly, their air of elegance is diminished (if only a little bit). The pointed snouts droop in front of them, giving a silly expression that looks like they are either grimacing or totally confused. The results reveal more about their personalities as we experience new sides to these seemingly always-graceful creatures.
Frontals is an ongoing project that has spanned a decade. “The series started basically when I started my career as a wildlife photographer,” Van Der Leij tells My Modern Met. “In the first pictures I took, I directly noticed that the frontal gave a weird perspective of the birds. After realizing this I just started to focus on it more.” He has since collected enough of these photographs to fill a book with no plans to stop now.
So, does Van Der Leij have a favorite in all of the bird images he’s snapped? It turns out that he does. “To me, the great bittern or Eurasian bittern is my favorite,” he admits. “It’s also one of my favorite birds. They are hard to see due to their camouflage and that's where frontal comes in handy.”