Usually, wildlife photography is associated with capturing animals in their natural habitat, but photographer Brad Wilson brings a new perspective to this. His series, called “Affinity”, exhibit close-up portraits of various wild animals taken in the studio.

For many years Brad has been taking professional photos with human models in New York and he felt, that switching to different species was a necessary journey for him to take. He says the title “Affinity” refers to the spontaneous feeling of connection that he experienced while working with these majestic animals:

“These beautiful animals engender an amazing sense of relationship that is primal in its roots and profound in the moment. I learned that they are what we, as humans, used to be: completely present in the moment and curious about the immediate environment around them, and living primarily through instinct and intuition.”

We’ve talked with Brad a little bit more about his studio photography project, so check out the animal portraits and his thoughts below. Also, be sure to view the video!

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Tigers have quite a presence in the studio. There were some rather awe-inspiring, fear-inducing moments when you realized just how physically powerful they were. Overall though, with a camera in front of my face, I felt strangely removed from the environment around me. I was simply unaware of any intimidation or how dangerous animals these are. Of course, this was a complete illusion, but it served me well.

Oddly enough, the most dangerous animal I worked with was the male baboon. They interpret any direct eye contact as a challenge that they feel the need to answer, usually with very intense aggression. We were told never to look them in the face, or even look in their general direction if possible. There were five trainers on the set during that shoot.

In a fantasy world, I would pick the mountain lion as a pet – a tremendously beautiful, graceful, and powerful creature.

The big cats have been the most difficult to work with. They are the top predator in the studio, and they know it. They pretty much do what they want to do, and you have to find a way to get the image you’re after in the middle of their random activity. Food rewards will keep their attention for short periods of time, but mostly they’re interested in sleep. Because they don’t fear humans, they will simply lay down in the middle of the photo set and take a nap. Once the serious napping starts, the shoot is over, whether you want it to be or not.

I’m after something very specific – a moment where mood, composition, and stillness come together to reveal something uncommon and unexpected. I’m looking for a unique connection to my subject that shows something deeper and more intimate to the viewer and treats the animals as equals, affording them all the respect and dignity I would offer any person in front of my camera. Hopefully, this makes my series different from most other animal photography, but that’s ultimately up to each individual seeing the work to decide.

I don’t try to encourage any particular expression. I let unfold what is going to unfold. I always found that the animals got to a much more interesting place on their own, without my direct input. Animals fully inhabit the space they are in, and they pull you into the moment with them, almost like meditation. There is an immediate and sustained sense of awe the entire time you are with them, and the rest of the world simply fades into the background.

See Brad Wilson in Action