Kaktovik, Alaska – 2016
It is a rare privilege to get close enough to a polar bear to take an image as intimate as this and even rarer to get close to two adults. The photograph was taken in October 2016 on the North Slope of Alaska – the best place in the world to study polar bears in their natural habitat. It is a hard destination to get to and does not readily cater for visitors. More importantly it is not well regulated – this makes it an ideal location for my approach to immersive photography – which leans on transgressive practices such as getting close to danger.
In order to get my eye line below or level with the bears, I had to be lying on the ground with my Inuit fixer and his vehicle right behind me. The closest he was prepared to go was 20 feet away – though on this occasion, the lead bear looked a little more interested in taking a mid afternoon nap, than attacking a human.
Indeed, moments after I had positioned myself, the bear arched her back and rubbed her face on the ice – just like a human having a stretch and a yawn. It was that familiar “Monday morning” feeling. I am often reminded that animal behaviour – even with alpha predators like Polar Bears – can be remarkably similar to humans.
I think this is a unique shot and there is a gratifying amount of detail.