Lions, tigers, and bears — in the studio? That’s just another day behind the camera for Austin photographer Randal Ford and the subject of his first book, The Animal Kingdom: A Collection of Portraits (Rizzoli).
It started a decade ago with an assignment to photograph a series of portraits of cows for the re-designed cover of Dairy Today. “These pictures really became portraits of the cows, showing their personality and coming to life, in a way. I figured that if I could show the personality of a cow, I could also do it with other animals,” Randal told Texas Monthly.
Over the years, Randal has developed a network of animal lovers who have helped him to tick off a dream list of species, from a cheetah called Yohan to Walter, the great horned owl. He photographs most of his subjects against a clean white background using fine art lighting and careful composition (and a sometimes a bucket of raw chicken) to show off an individual’s personality and profile.
“Creating portraits of animals has its own interesting aspects and challenges. The lack of control when shooting animals is freeing but is also a good exercise to balance out the control I have when creating portraits of people,” said Randal.
The book features portraits of 150 species, from a male lion cub with a mohawk to a chimpanzee channeling Rodin, not to mention an African crane, a cockatoo, a flamingo, several roosters, Arabian horses, bulls, Longhorn sheep, and a pride of big cats.
“The beautiful organisms that have graced Mr. Ford’s lens give us a glimpse into a world in which creatures that are often marginalized stand proudly before us,” wrote photographer Dan Winters in the book’s forward.
Thank you to Nick Cabrera for the images of the book.