“Sometimes, a small detail hits us only after a picture is taken.”
With the blink of an eye, photographer Tim Flach has recast the fabled wise owl into something much more imaginative.
Flach wanted his portrait to stray from how owls are typically portrayed with their wide eyes and inquisitive stare. In this instance, it’s a small-yet-significant detail that redirects the narrative—the closed eyelid.
“I didn’t want the image to be predictable with a big, brown-eyed owl looking back at you,” he said. “I’m sure it had beautiful eyes, but I thought the blink was more interesting.”
The owl is just one of the intriguing creatures Flach features in his photo series, “More Than Human,” which explores different ways people characterize animals through the concepts they attach to them.
“I’ve always been interested in how we shape animals. I’m intrigued by how we anthropomorphize them and the stories we create about them,” he said. “The owl has become a symbol of wisdom and curiously enough, it’s not a particularly smart animal. It’s interesting to me that its metaphor tells otherwise.”
Flach, a Getty Images Prestige photographer, learned to keep an open mind when approaching a shoot, since working with animals can be unpredictable. The key, he says, is staying alert for the unexpected moments.
“The detail that doesn’t immediately stare you in the face can have a bigger impact on our imagination than something that’s very obvious. I was completely surprised by the beauty of the eyelids—I didn’t even know owls had an inner eyelid until I did this shoot,” he said. “That’s the great thing about photography; it allows you to examine a fragmented moment that you wouldn’t be able to observe in normal time.”
One of Flach’s main objectives in his portraiture is to personify the animal, allowing the viewer to find a semblance of commonality. In this image, the owl’s closed eye and luxurious eyelashes present a humanlike quality that is both jarring and captivating.
“With a lot of my work, I treat these subjects in a way that is associated with human portraiture,” Flach said. “By delving into an animal portrait as if we were looking at a human portrait, it allows us to emotionally engage with the subject matter and helps us to define ourselves. We associate the owl’s gesture and eyelashes with being human and as a result, form a connection. It’s these small details that penetrate us.”
See more of Tim Flach’s thought-provoking animal portraits at gettyimages.com. Discover Now.