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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm ready for my claws-up: Photographer's incredible portraits of models who bear all

By Daily Mail Reporter

Jill Greenberg, like every other professional photographer, knows that models can be hard to handle - with their diva-like demands and hissy fits.

And, with the models she works with especially, getting them at the wrong time of day is literally like dealing with a bear with a sore head.

Greenberg's studio portraits feature animal celebrities, including many who have appeared in Hollywood films and commercials, at their most cute - and frightening.

Paw-trait: Amos, an impossibly adorable European Brown Bear, poses for a Jill Greenberg portrait in Kern, Frazier Park, California. The portraits range from cute to ferocious

He work captures everything from baby brown bears looking adorable, to 10ft tall Kodiak bears looking a little less adorable.

Known for her ability to bring human qualities to exotic animals, the 44-year-old Canadian-born artist wanted to explore the mystery and depth of emotion behind some of nature's most dangerous creatures.

She said: 'I wanted to create images of these majestic beasts unlike anything we had seen before. I set up a studio outside, with my signature lighting set up - that I had used on my monkey and crying children series - to show the intensity and allow an intimate view of these powerful beasts.

Does my butt look big in this? The aptly named Whopper may not like the unflattering product of a photoshoot in Innisfail, Alberta, Canada. Too much hibernation last year, perhaps?

Who's been a bad bear? Black bear Max looks like he's been given a thorough telling off, but Greenberg explains that some of her subjects are very tired by the end of a long day

'The project is known as "Ursine" and shows Russian black bears, giant Kodiak bears, a polar bear and baby cubs.

'Humans have a unique attachment to bears, many of us grow up with teddy bears and, sometimes we call big people bear-like.

'It was surprising to see them actually sit with their front paws between their hind ones, exactly the way stuffed animals do.

Playbear: Russian brown bear Cheyenne strikes a classic glamour-model pose - complete with its leg coquettishly thrown out to the side - during a shoot in San Bernardino Ranch, California

'Do you come here often?': With his lecherous wink and sly smile, Koda the grizzly seems intent on getting his paws on Greenberg, but it's clear that she only has eyes for the cute cub being bottle fed in her lap

'And, of course, it was great to see them ham it up for the camera, standing up on hind legs and growling on command, for vanilla sandwich biscuits and chunks of raw salmon - which they catch in their mouth.'

Working with professional animal trainers like Mark Dumas in Vancouver, Greenberg captured the best angles and poses, always careful to make sure not to make any sudden moves or loud noises to call attention to and create a dangerous situation for herself or her crew.

The Ursine series has attracted a celebrity following, with Greenberg saying: 'It was exhibited at the Jaski Gallery in Amsterdam earlier this year, and some cool people like Tom Ford, Ashton Kutcher, and Daniel Craig have bears hanging in their office and home.

Kodiak moment: Looking cute and cuddly is all very well, but Kodiak bear Ursula gives a frightening glimpse of what the creatures are capable of. Greenberg said her models would growl on command for treats

Or is it a Polaroid moment? Agee looks like she's about to read the news in this shot, taken in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. Greenberg's painstaking set-up highlights the majesty of these amazing animals

'Also it has been collected by major museums and shown in galleries in New York and Los Angeles.'

The photographs have also been turned into a book, Bear Portraits, which has been popular.

Greenberg said: 'My goal was to convey depth of character and emotion. I think that I did that.'



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