Renowned Portrait Artist to the Stars Takes on Bears

Contributing Editor, and bear conservationist, Dr. Jordan Schaul, recognizes another bear aficionado–renowned celebrity portrait artist and photographer–Jill Greenberg.   

I was touched when I first learned that Jill Greenberg turned her attention to bear portraiture. The American photographer has worked with numerous celebrity subjects, but more recently, she has captured some fabulous fauna on film.  Jill’s celebrity portraits have appeared on the covers of Newsweek and Time magazines, among other notable print media outlets.  Past subjects include the likes of Clint Eastwood & Glenn Close–just to name a few.  Now she can add some celebrities from the animal kingdom to her dossier.

Some lesser-known simians and non-human primates from orangutans to mandrills graced the pages of her first book dedicated to charismatic megafauna:  Monkey Portraits

In her second book, Jill turned her attention to ursidae and captured some “covert” and perhaps more “overt” expressions of some performing animal actors–all bears.  Posing on location, near Calgary, against portrait backdrops, her ursine subjects included bear ambassadors from North America. 

Jill photographed the predatory icons of the Arctic–polar bears. She also featured some more opportunistic and omnivorous subjects–the brown bears (a Kodiak and grizzlies) and American black bears. All are featured in her latest tribute to the animal kingdom in a 2009 publication–Bear Portraits

I’m thrilled that Jill has taken the opportunity to share some insight into the emotional intelligence of bears. 

I have had the fortune to work with all 8 species of bears in some capacity or another, most recently raising and training two orphaned Kodiak cubs (now 200 lb yearlings). 

I recognize and respect the bear-human bond as it pertains to work with captive bears. It is a great privilege to be in their company.

The posing ursids featured in Bear Portraits convey just how intimate the relationship between the bear handler and bear are in the context of training for a photo shoot.

Jill takes advantage of this relationship and showcases the expressive nature of these beasts.

She truly is a master at her craft. Jill captures some of the subtle expressions that can’t be described in these magnificent animals. She also features the faces of bears that make for folklore and occasional tragic realities.  Good job, Jill!



Behind-the-Scenes Video: Bear Portraits

Jill Greenberg On Arts & Minds

Human Journey

Meet the Author
With training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska while (While Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (While executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition he was an ex officio member of council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management. Contact Email: