BTS: Shooting Beautiful Fine Art Studio Portraits of Wild Animals

Santa Fe, New Mexico-based photographer Brad Wilson decided last year that he wanted to photograph something “a little less predictable,” so he decided to shoot fine art studio portraits of wild animals using all the things he has learned through years of shooting human portraiture.

He began calling up wildlife sanctuaries and handlers that provide animals for Hollywood movies. Once he had the animals he needed, he signed fat insurance policies and liability contracts (e.g. if an animal dies during a shoot, Wilson owed $500K), and got to work on a 90×120-foot sound stage in a Los Angeles studio lot.

The behind-the-scenes video above offers a look at how the project came together.

The Telegraph writes that the promise of food helped with controlling the portrait subjects:

His only trick was food, and each animal came with their own favourite snack. Some were fairly innocuous – blueberries for the spider monkey, for example – but the big cats required 30lb of raw meat each. It was “a little overwhelming”, says Wilson. “They arrive having not eaten for a day or two, and that’s how you direct them around the set.”

Here’s a collection of photos that resulted from the shoot:

Wilson titled the resulting project Affinity. You can enjoy the entire series over on his website.

Affinity by Brad Wilson (via Fstoppers and The Telegraph)

Image credits: Photographs by Brad Wilson and used with permission

  • Rui

    These are exceptionally beautiful, I love the ones of the primates; they are very expressive. Thanks for sharing!

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I basically disagree with everything the guy says. If you want to photograph animals – move your ass and go shoot them in their own habitat. animals aren’t here to be “hired” out so you can mess around with them in a studio and have them perform for food so you can take your photographs.

  • egl

    poor animals…

  • harumph

    It’s Andrew Zuckerman with a black background instead of a white background. These are really good though.

  • Marco Siguenza

    Im agree with you man!

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    I imagine the people disagreeing with me are also the kind of people that like going to animal circuses. ugh.

  • Kris Wood

    I went to see the exhibition in London last week, the photos are mesmerising in situ.

  • Photography Week

    We interviewed Brad for our third issue – nice guy!

  • brober

    I agree, there is something sad about these images if you ask me. These animals need to be free, not contained.

  • Pachamama

    Oh what aren’t humans ready to do for the entertainment of other humans. And money, of course. BIG money that lies in the wild animal trade.
    Sorry, but I don’t see any beautiful shots, I see animals that were taken from the wild. So that the poachers, wild pet owners and in this case the photographer earn money.
    “Sharing the space with animals” is bollocks.

  • Pachamama

    I’ll skip the third issue, thank you very much.
    Don’t want to support this kind of activity in any form. As long as there’s demand for this, wild animal trade will continue.