Russian photographer Olga Barantseva imagines a wondrous world through her fairytale photography. Most notably, her magical-feeling images feature real animals that interact with beautiful models. Although the furry companions include wolves and foxes, there’s one creature whose big presence steals the show—a brown bear named Stepan that stands over 7 feet tall and weighs more than 1,400 pounds. This isn’t the first time we’ve met Stepan, and since his photo debut, he and Barantseva have continued their unique partnership.
Stepan’s daunting size might make him seem ferocious, but he’s really a gentle giant. Rescued as a starving cub when he was just three months old, he was raised by his owner, a circus trainer. As Stepan grew into an adult, it was clear that he was too domesticated to ever be released back in the wild. Now, the 20-year-old is an actor who has appeared in movies and photographs like the ones you see here.
Aside from Stepan, Barantseva’s photographs include all the elements that make them unforgettable in their own right. Each features an airy, picturesque setting lit with natural light, and a striking visual juxtaposition of a small human interacting with wild animals. But rather than any foreseeable danger, the two species coexist peacefully—resulting in images that seem like they're moments of a story frozen in time. This memorability is a testament to Barantseva’s talents and imagination—a force that drives everything. “Mainly I’m interested in creative portraits,” Barantseva told PetaPixel. “I have an interest and passion for creative photography. The most important thing is the idea, not Photoshop.”