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The Statesman

Kaktovik, Alaska - 2018
Kaktovik, Alaska

I guess on one hand this is a fairly straightforward portrait of an adult male polar bear; there is nothing dramatic going on and no collapsing iceberg in the background. But the encounter was surreal, and it did take some time for it all to sink in.

On the other hand, there is fine detail in this study. The bear is totally comfortable with my presence and happy to merely observe and continue being who he is—the ultimate alpha mammal. His relaxed demeanor allowed me to inch closer and wait for head-on, eye-to-eye contact. Only then could I stare into his unique world.

What do I see in his eyes? Wisdom, security, and governance. He is totally in control—a bit like a meeting with a therapist. He is the one with all the answers. It’s a fireside chat with a statesman at the top of the world. I think he is telling me that he likes his tea white with no sugar. Then we can get on with the issues of the day.

There are very few places in the world where this shot could have been taken, and those who know polar bear habitats will probably recognize that this perspective is most likely to be found on the North Slope of Alaska. It may not be the most beautiful place in the world to photograph polar bears, but in my humble opinion it is still the best place in the world to see polar bears. There is a subtle difference between the two, but I confess to playing the numbers game and therefore have an affinity for this barren and bleak coastline. In September, the bears are out in full force and not spooked by humans—we almost cohabit at this time of year.

What do I see in his eyes? Wisdom, security, and governance. He is totally in control — a bit like a meeting with a therapist.

David Yarrow
Print sizes


39" x 30" Unframed

54" x 45” Framed

Edition of 12


58" x 44" Unframed

74" x 59" Framed

Edition of 12

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