This man’s portraits show the beauty of animals on the brink of extinction

For two years, photographer Tim Flach traveled the world taking portraits of animals we might never see again in the near future.

His series, entitled Endangered, gives us a closer, more intimate look at the creatures we often read about in the endangered species list.

The animals he photographed include ones we’re familiar with – such as the giant panda and the polar bear – as well as ones we’ve probably never heard of before – like the Saiga and the Philippine eagle.

Captured mostly through dark backgrounds, the images allow us to look into the eyes of these majestic creatures, and contemplate their wavering existence. Flach hopes that by mildly anthropomorphizing them, we can establish a connection, and hopefully, take action.

“Images often done in a style and representation that was more like humans was more likely to make us care more,” he said.

We recently caught up with Flach amidst his busy schedule to learn more about Endangered.

What inspired you to embark on the portrait series?

“The idea that never before has it been so important to connect people with nature – our future depends on it. As I say at the beginning of the book ‘the title of this book is Endangered but the question is: to whom does that apply’.

“I want to create imagery that touches us emotionally, so that we feel compelled to act and to understand their stories. It is by connecting people with the personality and character, that we can to elicit change and encourage action.”

Take us through the process of making the series. How many countries did you visit? What was the hardest part of taking photos of endangered animals?

“Most of the time I work closely with the people that know the animal best and work as a team with them, whether in the field with endangered wild animals but also captive animals.

“I did choose to photograph everything from elephants down to insects, and in a way it is quite difficult to say what the challenges were because each bought a unique challenge of its own. The project took two years, with six months of research leading up to this before I took a single picture!

“Whilst photographing you have to be respectful that you are dealing with wild animals and I am very fortunate to work with people some of the most respected best people who really knew well the animals we were photographing. I couldn’t approach the animals the same degree as I could with horses and dogs, I had to spend time observing them.

“But above all, our greatest challenge is to connect people to nature!”

Which animal left the biggest impression on you?

“When I looked into the eyes of the last Male Northern White Rhino, my question was not so much what the animal was thinking, but a question of how did we reach a stage where I needed to be there photographing it, to document it. How did we get to this point? I think looking into the eyes of an animal always brings into question our connection with them so this was a particularly big moment for me.”

What are you working on next?

“You are always constantly shaping a book, although I feel this is the most complete book I have done and I feel very privileged to have done it. I do recall a photographer colleague of mine saying one never finishes a book one is only separated from it.

“I am continuing my interest in conservation and the natural world. But I am also ‘indulging’ in a bird book – I want to photograph some of the most glamorous, beautiful birds – Birds of prey, Golden Pheasants, Chickens, Macaws, tropical birds – to celebrate the wonderment of birds.”

If you’d like to get a copy of Flach’s book on the series, it’s available on Amazon.