Tim Flach, the photographer celebrated for his horses and dogs, is now making portraits of creatures ranging from a panda to a millipede. Simon Willis asks him what they are saying...
It’s the panther’s eyes you notice first, fixing their object with a hint of malevolence. He may be grooming himself in a pose familiar from the domestic cat, but “the drills of his eyes”, as Ted Hughes wrote about a jaguar, have a powerful self-possession. Then the tongue, which you don’t so much see as feel on your skin—the rasp of those spines, arrayed in aggressive rows like sharks’ teeth.
But you mustn’t be intimidated. “If someone’s meek, it’s dangerous,” says Tim Flach, who took these photographs. “But if you’re puffed up, you can be a challenge to an animal that wants dominance. I try to be as neutral as possible so I can be observational rather than challenging, or prey.”
Pictured: Black panther, Panthera pardus
This panther is a black variant of a leopard. They have been selectively bred for decades in zoos and for the exotic-pet trade—a fact that Flach plays on with this domesticated pose