Randal Ford spent the last ten years exploring our deep-rooted emotional connection with animals through the lens of portraiture. Wild animals are typically photographed in their natural habitat, but Ford chose to strip away context by photographing these animals close up and personal in his studio. “Why do we as humans feel something so deeply when we look into the eyes of an animal?” he asks. “My deconstructed form of portraiture is intended to give us a glimpse into the soul of an animal. But what I often find is what we see is a naked glimpse at the most mystical and elusive breed of all–ourselves.”

“Black swan, outlier. Black swan, unpredictable. Black swan, extreme impact. It is said a small number of black swans explains almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and tradition, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives. What’s your black swan?”

“Schicka was my first large cat to photograph in studio. Large cats in studio are an experience unlike anything else. The combination of power and grace is tangible. They command respect and one wrong move can make things escalate quickly. I remember distinctly when Schicka’s trainers removed her leash and asked her to walk to the mark. The way she walked was so graceful, and stunningly beautiful. But I was in the middle, at her mercy. The feeling that I could be prey was chilling. She received fresh, uncooked meat as her reward between takes. I only work with trainers who show a great amount of respect for the animals and are incredibly thoughtful with their care. Schicka’s owners not only treat her with dignity but also love. It was obvious there’s an ongoing relationship of trust and appreciation.”

“Compared to his brother, Amari was a bit more calm and relaxed on set. I thought it would be interesting to see Amari in a very human position. He was agreeable and was happy to pose for us. Inspired by the famous picture of Burt Reynolds for Cosmopolitan magazine in 1972.”

“Penelope liked to dance, but once the lights came on she owned the shoot. Birds are one of my favorite subjects and Penelope had the whole crew’s attention with her elegance and majesty. I wanted to show different tones of gray and also the textures of her feathers so I highlighted her with directional lighting. She was truly a royal subject.”

“Catalina made me just as nervous as some big cats. But sometimes you get one frame with just the right pose. And I consider myself lucky to have capturedCatalina in this pose. We had limited time with her because, well, she’s not only abig bird but also a fast one. And ostriches can be very dangerous. Although theyare considered prey to big cats, their defense mechanism is to raise their massivetalons and kick the hell out of a predator. In order to keep her safe and us safe,Catalina’s trainers brought in a 20 x 20 metal fencing to set a perimeter around her. As we shot, the trainers would open and close the fence.”

“Maverick had mighty horns. He had a set much curvier that most steers. And they were so perfectly symmetrical that I really focused on their shape when composing my frames. Maverick is a Fort Worth native and you can find him hanging out near the stockyards year-round keeping the peace.”

“With a name like Garth, what’s not to like? This masculine cock strutted in the studio with his feathers up, looking for ladies. Fortunately for us, there were none–just some boring seed for the good-looking guy. He certainly posed for us though, and I loved how the light picked up with the classic Americana colors of his coat.”

“Wolves don’t walk, they prance. And Geronimo did just that. He danced around the studio, sniffing us all briefly and posed for us for only a few minutes and then he was ready to leave. 

People often ask what animal is most memorable to me.  All of them are in their own way. But during this process, I often found I related to wolves the most.  Wolves run in packs and stick together but there is often a lone wolf who leaves the pack to go out on his own. I’ve never been one to conform to norms and typically march to the beat of my own drum… so maybe I’m a bit of a lone wolf myself.”

“Oh boy, who would have thought a sloth would be so challenging? Perry, which is short for Perezoso (lazy in Spanish), was a character. Most of my subjects can either stand on their legs or sit upright. Sloths, on the other hand, do neither. They lay or they hang, that’s it. It was impossible to create a shot of Perry laying because he just melted into the floor. However, once I saw him hang, the light bulb went off, THAT was the shot. Despite his namesake, he moved constantly, literally spinning, which made it super challenging for me to capture just the right moment. After working patiently with him I laughed at the irony of my hyperactive sloth and finally captured a shot I was happy with.”

“Jabari, bedhead, messy teenager. Part of the interest of this shot is that he has a young mane growing in. This is so indicative of a teenager, which I guess in lion years, Jabari was right on schedule. The messiness, the awkwardness, and the length all cue the audience to his age and demeanor. Like a teenager, he was all over the place when we photographed him. Some animals sit still for me and I can capture plenty of images. But Jabari only sat still a few times, and I only captured a few decent shots. His size was small enough to know he was young but still big enough to intimidate me as an observer.”

“What a Gertrude. Similar to a yak, Highland cows have long, beautiful shaggy hair. Per their name, they are originally from the Highlands of Scotland. Most Highlands are redheads but Gertrude was a blonde beauty. I loved how her locks covered up her eyes, and in this frame I selected, she tilted her head slightly as if she was telling me something. My affinity for cows definitely holds true with these beautiful Highlands and this portrait of pretty Gertrude is hanging in my house.”

“This is a classic foal pose as they bend down to eat. It has the grace of a deer but shows the muscular precision Weston will grow into. We were very lucky to capture this pose.”

“Yohan and his fifth gear. I grew up a track and field sprinter, and consequently I have always had a love for cheetahs so it was amazing to see Yohan in person. He was distinguished and calm. He resides outside of Dunlap, California, at one of the most amazing large-cat sanctuaries I’ve ever seen. The founder of the organization is continually pushing efforts for large-cat conservation and protection. On our outdoor mobile studio, Yohan was easy going, interested in playing with a large-cat toy, chasing it around like he was a cub. At the sanctuary, they have a 400-square-yard open area for Yohan to show off his speed.”

Randal Ford is an internationally recognized photographer whose works have appeared on the cover of major publications including Time Magazine, andCommunication Arts, the advertising industry’s most respected publication. He has also been commissioned to create photographs for many of the most famous brands in the world such as Anheuser-Busch, Comcast, Frito-Lay, L.L.Bean, Verizon, Pfizer, and Pepsi.

Ford has become increasingly involved in the fine art realm with his series of animal portraits. This collection took him about five years to create, although he shot his first portrait of a cow more than 10 years ago. In 2017, these portraits were awarded first place and best of show in the fine art category of the esteemed International Photo Awards competition. In the fall of 2018, renowned publisher Rizzoli released his book The Animal Kingdom, which is currently the No. 1 best seller in photography books on Amazon.


Located in the heart of San Francisco’s vibrant art and design district, Sloan Miyasato Fine Art is a contemporary art venue offering a user-friendly alternative to the white walls of traditional art galleries by helping collectors more easily envision art in their homes or other environments. 

Founded in 1997 by Bay Area art advisor Michelle Bello, and set inside one of the city’s most venerable design showrooms, the program features a rotating collection of art installed in distinctive vignettes filled with world-class furnishings. Bello brings more than 25 years of professional art market expertise, both as a former director of two contemporary art galleries, and currently as an independent art advisor, to curate her selection of works by emerging and mid-career artists, along with museum-quality pieces by established names.