Photographer Randal Ford believes that every animal has a story to tell. This compassionate perspective is at the core of his ongoing Animal Portrait Collection, a striking series that explores his subjects’ unique personalities and behaviors.
Each revealing photograph features a single animal strategically shot against a stark black or white backdrop. Described by Ford as a “deconstructive approach to portraiture,” this minimalist aesthetic prompts us to observe the subjects without distraction and places emphasis on eliciting emotion.
This focus on feelings is also evident in the expressions and poses of the animals. Some—like the upside-down sloth and lounging chimpanzee—showcase their silly side, while others—including the black bull and Bengal tiger—appear powerful and pensive. In any case, “whether it’s beauty, power, or humor,” Ford explains, “I want to give animals the opportunity to tell their story and to connect with you.”
To achieve this goal, Ford has a fascinating approach: he does not try to dictate or guide the way the animals act. Instead, he lets them be themselves and shoots when the time is right.
“During the shooting process, it’s not uncommon that an animal gives you just a glimpse of its personality. My need to stay on point and focused is imperative in capturing that split second when an animal reveals itself,” he says. “And of course, these are animals. We love them, we respect them, but we cannot control them. It’s up to them to decide the story being told.”