Birds of Unusual Vitality: Shinning A Light on People Behind Coffee

Perhaps you wouldn’t be able to tell what it is based on name but Birds of Unusual Vitality is this charming and inspiring site ran by Eileen P Kenny where she features intimate portraits of “baristas, roasters, farmers, pickers, workers and essentially everyone involved in the process of coffee production from start to finish.”

When describing the purpose of the site, Eileen says:

In the long term I want to show that there’s more to coffee than the cup in your hand, that there are so many people involved in getting it to that final product, and that they have many stories to tell.

All the portraits are taken by Eileen using her beloved Hasselblad 500C using Kodak Portra 120 film. I can’t tell you how much I love coming across personal photography projects like this. I’m in the middle of reading The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon and there’s a part in the book where he completely encourages photographers to make it their business to take on assigments surronding topics that inspire you to commit and drive you to work hard to complete it.

With respect to assignments, influential documentary photographer Diane Arbus once said, “The more personal you make it, the more universal it becomes.” In case you’re wondering if anyone will even care what your assignment is about, let me share with you this. Prior to seeing this video of Jimmy Chin covering a story for National Geographic on modern day climbers in Yosemite, I had no interest in moutain climbing at all and while I still don’t see it as a recreation that I’ll pick up anytime soon, the exceptional amount of access, intimacy and dedication shared in this video about moutain climbing is enough to leave anyone with at least a higher respect for what these people do.