Never work with animals or children, they say. But photographer Brad Wilson has defied the first premise of this maxim, going so far as to invite wild animals into his photographic studio.
A Siberian tiger, an enormous elephant, a majestic mountain lion, a cheeky spider monkey, an impossibly fluffy Arctic fox and an enquiring Kangaroo are among the creatures to have stared blithely down Wilson’s lens.
What is revealed by such close contact is an intensity of communication, intelligence and beauty from faces which can be seen only distantly in the wild.
Set against a black backdrop, the portraits force the onlooker to examine the textures and colours of the animal’s hide and shape, free from external distraction.
Entertaining wild animals in a studio filled with bright lights, delicate equipment and then using flash in close proximity is a risky business.
“You have to be able to wait for the animal, let things unfold as they will without any forceful intent, and be prepared all the time to get the picture,” Wilson says.
He started the project in 2010 when he photographed a chimpanzee. “The animals pull you into the present moment with them, a world they effortlessly and continually inhabit, and all normal human concerns quickly fade away,” he remarks.