Jill Greenberg is well-acquainted with the internet, and the internet is well-acquainted with her. As with most world-class photographers, her style is very distinct: glossy highlights from reflectors, smooth lighting, and a simple monochrome background. She made her name as a celebrity photographer, shooting stars like David Bowie, Liza Minelli, Clint Eastwood, and the like. After a while, she turned her focus to monkeys and apes, and started specializing in animal photography as well.
In 2007, after she was done with the "End Times" project, where she captured crying children with their candies taken from them (and which Bored Panda has covered too), she decided to do something more wild and visceral again, like her project with the monkeys. That's when she started getting ideas about capturing bears in her signature setting (in the limelight, mind you). So she thought of setting up an outdoor studio for them.
You can find all of these images and more in her book "Bear Portraits," which you can buy on Amazon.
As with many people, her main concern was that bears would eat her and her crew. So she found "close contact" bears in Alberta, Canada, that are more approachable than their wild counterparts. In the beginning of the project, there were six bears: five Kodiaks and one black bear. She was very surprised with her results because they looked like they weren't real. She attributes that to the artificial lighting that she uses: she had never seen them in that light before.
Jill wanted to include a polar bear as well, so she could raise awareness about the most vulnerable species of bear. They're the martyrs of global warming, for whom their natural habitat is constantly changing for the worse. Polar bears have approximately 25 years before they exist only in zoos. And thus, Jill found one in Vancouver, whose owner also owned a 1600-pound grizzly bear in California, which she photographed too. Her favorite bear was a cub named Amos, which she had the opportunity of feeding personally.
She has put her neat collection into a book called "Bear Portraits," to which you can find a link above. She said that her initial intention was to reflect the angry criticism that she got from the blogosphere. She was the early bird in an internet era, and was, unluckily, one of the first to experience the vitriol of the netizens. But as the project progressed, she has learned to see the strange duality of the bears' nature, that behind that fuzzy and misleadingly innocent facade there lies a brutal natural savagery. This turned her mind to society's anthropomorphization of animals and denial of their true nature. It's been 13 years since the photoshoot, so now it's a nice memory. For now, the photographer has put a pause button on animal photography and is focusing more on paints and paintings, which you can see on her Instagram page.
Note: this post originally had 65 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.