Intimate animal portraits depict ‘fragility’ of the natural world

Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

Pedro Jarque Krebs always dreamed of getting nature’s greatest beasts into the studio for a photo shoot. But with all the practical and ethical challenges involved, the Peruvian wildlife photographer instead settled for the next best thing: using digital tools to turn his images into stunning, candid portraits.

Captured both in the wild and in captivity, Krebs’ images span a multitude of creatures — from marine birds and big cats, to reptiles and great apes. Some of the pictures benefit from naturally dark environments, while others have had their natural surroundings removed in post-production.

Krebs removes the natural backgrounds to leave his subjects — in this case, three great white pelicans — to create “a relationship of intimacy between the viewer and the animal.” Credit: Pedro Jarque Krebs/teNeues

“The use of dark backgrounds … aims to isolate the animal from any element of distraction, to create a relationship of intimacy between the viewer and the animal,” he said over email.

“My desire is to seek a reconciliation between humans and animals, (which is) today more necessary than ever, offering an image that awakens empathy and at the same time show the beauty and fragility of wildlife.”

This idea runs throughout Krebs’ new book, “Fragile,” which brings together more than 100 of the portraits. While not all of the featured animals are under threat of extinction, many are endangered species, like Asian elephants and Malayan tapirs.

The dignified expressions of Krebs’ subjects can appear almost human. Credit: Pedro Jarque Krebs/teNeues

The images occasionally depict dangerous animals at their most ferocious — lions, leopards and crocodiles mid-roar — but they more often hint at something more vulnerable. The dignified expressions on display seem to anthropomorphize Krebs’ subjects, be it a sage-looking lemur or a mournful orangutan.

“What interests me is showing the essence of the animal — I would almost say its ‘soul,'” explained Krebs, a former finalist in the prestigious Sony World Photography Awards. “So the closer you (can get), the better.

“I have had the opportunity to shake hands with an orangutan, be in the midst of a pack of wolves, participate in a feast of vultures and even dodge a stone from a chimpanzee frustrated by (me) not having food to give him.”

Jaguars are currently listed as a “near-threatened” species. Credit: Pedro Jarque Krebs/teNeues

These experiences have led Krebs to the conclusion that animals possess a “consciousness very similar to ours.” Taking aim at the climate crisis and, more broadly, the impact of human activity on animal life, the photographer sees his work as an environmental call-to-arms.

“What really differentiates us from (animals) is our moral conscience,” he said, “which makes us directly responsible for the destiny of all life on this planet that is in our hands.”

Fragile,” published by teNeues, is available July 15. Scroll the the gallery above to see more images from the book.

This article originally appeared here