Animal Presence

Reconnect with Nature and a Simpler Existence in Brad Wilson’s Affinity Photography Series

Traveling around California, Monterey, New Mexico and some wildlife sanctuaries in Missouri, Brad Wilson has captured dramatic portraits of wild animals, in his series, Affinity I & Affinity II.


‘I enjoyed reconnecting with a part of myself that has been often dormant and under-expressed: complete presence in the moment. It comes naturally to animals and they pull you it, if only for the duration of the photo shoot.’

The stunning, majestic, and sometimes unnerving cast includes baboons, snakes, elephants and owls. Brad chose to shoot his subjects, either in a commercial studio, which he had the animals brought to, or in a studio that he set up on site where the animals lived.

‘For me, this was an important part of the project,’ Brad told The Plus, ‘to have control of the lighting and the environment as much as possible, and to have a consistent look throughout the body of work.’ We caught up with Brad to find out more:

The Plus: They say never work with animals. What is the most challenging part of working with wild animals?
Brad Wilson:
Aside from the inherent danger, I think the hardest part was the unpredictability of the subjects. The challenge was trying to find and capture a compelling moment in the middle of what usually turned out to be a sort of organized chaos. The animals were constantly moving which created some obvious difficulties, and when they indicated they were done (through a noticeable mood shift or show of aggression), the shoot was over. We never pushed past the comfort zone of each animal. I might get 10 minutes or 2 hours – I never knew what to expect.

TP: How did the different animals react?
Each animal reacted differently to the studio environment and to me. Some animals were curious, some were wary, and some were completely indifferent. Primates tended to be more curious, prey animals like the zebra were wary, and predators like the big cats seemed mostly indifferent.

TP: How did you get some of them to look straight at the camera?
That was by far the most difficult shot to get; it quickly became the “holy grail” of this project. As humans, direct eye contact is a way we connect more profoundly to other living beings. Of course, animals often favor other senses like smell, so looking into someone’s eyes is rare and usually has a completely different meaning for them. Over a 2 hour session, I was lucky to get one or two frames where the animal was gazing directly at me. There was really no special trick – nothing worked with any consistency – I just had to be patient.