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Renowned Portrait Artist to the Stars Takes on Bears

Contributing Editor, and bear conservationist, Dr. Jordan Schaul, recognizes another bear aficionado–renowned celebrity portrait artist and photographer–Jill Greenberg.   

I was touched when I first learned that Jill Greenberg turned her attention to bear portraiture. The American photographer has worked with numerous celebrity subjects, but more recently, she has captured some fabulous fauna on film.  Jill’s celebrity portraits have appeared on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines, among other notable print media outlets.  Past subjects include the likes of Clint Eastwood & Glenn Close–just to name a few.  Now she can add some celebrities from the animal kingdom to her dossier.

Some lesser-known simians and non-human primates from orangutans to mandrills graced the pages of her first book dedicated to charismatic megafauna:  Monkey Portraits

In her second book, Jill turned her attention to ursidae and captured some “covert” and perhaps more “overt” expressions of some performing animal actors–all bears.  Posing on location, near Calgary, against portrait backdrops, her ursine subjects included bear ambassadors from North America. 

Jill photographed the predatory icons of the Arctic–polar bears. She also featured some more opportunistic and omnivorous subjects–the brown bears (a Kodiak and grizzlies) and American black bears. All are featured in her latest tribute to the animal kingdom in a 2009 publication–Bear Portraits

I’m thrilled that Jill has taken the opportunity to share some insight into the emotional intelligence of bears. 

I have had the fortune to work with all 8 species of bears in some capacity or another, most recently raising and training two orphaned Kodiak cubs (now 200 lb yearlings). 

I recognize and respect the bear-human bond as it pertains to work with captive bears. It is a great privilege to be in their company.

The posing ursids featured in Bear Portraits convey just how intimate the relationship between the bear handler and bear are in the context of training for a photo shoot.

Jill takes advantage of this relationship and showcases the expressive nature of these beasts.

She truly is a master at her craft. Jill captures some of the subtle expressions that can’t be described in these magnificent animals. She also features the faces of bears that make for folklore and occasional tragic realities.  Good job, Jill!



Behind-the-Scenes Video: Bear Portraits

Jill Greenberg On Arts & Minds