The Birds

"Kids Attacked by Ravens" (1963) by Robert Coburn

Deadline is fast approaching on the manuscript for "The Extraordinary Difference," the history of Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive architect Fred Hayman. From sun up to sun down, I'm consumed by the project. Well, finishing it. So it's no wonder that I was compulsively drawn to this image by Robert Coburn.
Mr. Coburn was the go-to photographer for many Hollywood studios between the 1930s and 1960s, and his black and white work defined many of the period's icons, from William Holden to Rita Hayworth. The Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences awarded him the Still Photography Exhibition Award in 1941 and 1943.

He was part glamor photographer, part documentarian, as his work on the set of Alfred Hitchcock's seminal "The Birds" reveal. This particual image, "Kids Attacked by Ravens" really got me. The manic terror coupled with the fantasy subtext–look closer, and you can just about see the threads holding up the birds–is deliciously surreal.

Fred and I were at the Fahey/Klein Gallery gallery yesterday when we happened on to the exhibition. I was there to finally pick up the Melvin Solosky work I bought last year. Fred immediately gravitated to a photograph in the main exhibition room, that of a red zip-up sweater by Dan Winters. It belonged to Mister Rogers. He snapped it up.

I was still in the other room, going on and on to the gallerina, Celeste, about this raven-kids pic. An 11×14 vintage silver gelatin print, it's wasn't as large as some of the others. But it got me in the gut even more than a grander sized image featuring the director with a raven or the glorious Tippi Hedren in all her Hitchcock blonde splendour.
"It either speaks to you right away or it doesn't," said Fred. And, just like that, he made a gift of it for me. Surreal.

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