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We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be – the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself. Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf

If your subject is scared of you, then your images will reflect their fear, they will not be a true representation of the human or animal. Most of the imagery of wild wolves depicts them afraid and at a distance. But not in the high Arctic with this family of Arctic wolves – unafraid. The project shows the viewer an intimate portrayal of a family in the wild, their hearts beating, and against a background of climate change.

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I spent over a year trying to document the natural behaviors of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, the best place in the world for thousands of people to see wolves in the wild every year. But the wolves in Yellowstone are still hunted and trapped outside the Park, so are still afraid of humans, as they should be. I came out of the National Geographic project feeling that the images I made were not a fair portrayal of the wild gray wolf. It is the challenge of all social documentary and wildlife photographers to create images of their subjects that are intrinsically honest. As modern humans, we are so far removed from the day-to-day lives of wild animals. They speak a language of their own, and they live out their lives often hidden from our eyes. As humans, we try to oversimplify what we cannot understand. We routinely do it with human cultures, and we most certainly apply the same measure to wild animals. These images are an attempt to portray wild wolves using the same approach as a social documentary photographer would for human subjects. With intimate distance and time, the images will come.

Ronan Donovan

Ronan Donovan

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