• November 5, 2014

Corey Arnold Looks Wildlife Straight in the Eye

I find this salmon image haunting my dreams. It keeps me awake at night. It’s got me thinking about death, and life, and the inextricable relationship between the two. It makes me ask myself: Is it only the inevitability of death that makes our short lives seem so precious? And I think the answer is “yes.”

This salmon is just one small player in the grand cycle of life. But its floating body caught Corey Arnold’s eye, and now it’s caught mine. It is beautiful in its awfulness. It is raw and mesmerizing. It forces me to look closer, holds my gaze, and then stays with me long after I look away.

And it’s just one image in Arnold’s new body of work “Wildlife” that has a hold on me. Through some magic, he manages to look animals straight in the eye and find a way to make them stare right back.

Picture of: Fight or Flight
Fight or Flight

“I want people to ask themselves questions about what they are seeing,” he says. “I want people to think about their own relationship with wilderness, and with animals, and with nature.”

Looking through Arnold’s images, I am profoundly struck by the power of the animals’ eyes. Whether peeking out from behind a rock, bearing down from above, or frozen in a death mask, the eyes draw viewers deep into the creatures’ world.

Viewing his work, I can’t not feel the pain of this wounded bear; the humiliation of this harbor seal; or the sad grin of this salmon shark on its final voyage on the sea:

Picture of: Wounded Bear Near Red Salmon
Wounded Bear Near Red Salmon
Picture of: Harbor Seal #C2
Harbor Seal #C2
Picture of: The Mighty Salmon Shark
The Mighty Salmon Shark

But Corey Arnold’s spare captions leave interpretation up to each individual viewer. You might not really know what’s going on in each frame, but you probably have a feeling about it.

“This series is about instincts and our relationship with animals,” says Arnold. “I like to take pictures that make people dream about the greater world and our place in it.”

Small Moose Hunting
Small Moose Hunting

Arnold has done a fair amount of thinking about his own place in the animal world. He grew up hunting and tracking every animal that came through his boyhood backyard, as well as sport fishing with his dad. But while he was hunting squirrels and gophers with a BB gun, he also volunteered at an oddball wildlife refuge down the street, helping to save animals’ lives. He’s now a commercial fisherman with an extensive body of photographic work to his name.

(The New York Times ‘Lens’ blog did an excellent profile of him last year.)

“Wildlife” is a collection of images from many of Arnold’s different journeys. While it mostly features animals, he also includes the occasional human. He mainly shoots using natural light and his hunter’s instincts. For example, to get the photo of the eagle he lay on his belly on a dock, while other eagles swarmed around his head, screaming at him. He had to pull his hood over his head to protect himself.

Picture of: Reindeer Hide
Reindeer Hide

“So much of why I’m shooting the pictures has to do with curiosity and mystery, and hopefully that’s inspiring to people, he says. “I like to think I have a unique connection with animals.”

During our conversation, I complemented Arnold on his photo of a white bird staring down from above, remarking on the intensity of its gaze.

“Some of my friends have been trying to talk me out of using [that image],” he says.

“But no. I told them: ‘We are a having a connection right now. We are looking into each other’s souls.’ The bird was trying to kill me because I was standing near its nest. It was making serious eye contact. He’s trying to figure me out the same way I’m trying to figure him out.”

Picture of: Bird Watching
Bird Watching

And as Corey Arnold continues to try to figure out the animal world, he will keep adding to this body of work, as well as to a personal project called “Human Animals,” which playfully turns the lens on ourselves and our strange interactions with the critters among us.

Corey Arnold’s show “Wildlife” opens today at the Charles A. Hartman Fine Art gallery in Portland, Ore. The work will be on display Nov. 5-29, 2014. See more of his work on his website: coreyfishes.com

There are 26 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. kera
    April 29, 2015


  2. sagar saini
    April 16, 2015

    speechless after Fight or Flight

  3. Dave
    April 12, 2015

    U r a good photographer and I like the way u take a pictures

  4. bpmaiti
    April 12, 2015

    Noting extraordinary

  5. Christopher
    March 27, 2015

    very touching!

  6. nicole
    February 2, 2015

    wow great pics!! each pic tells a story

  7. Coco
    December 11, 2014

    Beautiful pictures, the nature is the best think in the world and we must protect it.

  8. Ayatullah khomeny
    December 11, 2014

    all picture nice.

  9. Chie
    December 11, 2014

    Corey Arnold you are amazing Photographer! I like how you view things and create a story in each photo.

  10. Kishore Halder
    November 29, 2014


  11. debra beers
    November 8, 2014

    humans are animals. period.

  12. Jenna
    November 7, 2014

    These are stunningly beautiful. I wish I could share moments with animals like this.

  13. Anne
    November 7, 2014

    Breathtaking!! A man after my own heart. I imagine you having your own conversation with these gorgeous creatures.

  14. Rezaul Choton
    November 7, 2014

    Very nice

  15. Sambhik Chowdhury
    November 7, 2014

    Awsm and heart touching pics…..

  16. Zeeshan saleem
    November 7, 2014

    Wow. stunning shot.these shots tell us so much stories.

  17. sojo
    November 7, 2014

    what is that Shell logo doing between the pics.. it looks disturbing.. not sure, but if it is add, then placed totally wrong.

  18. Neha Mittal
    November 7, 2014

    incredible shots……….Wow!

  19. Remi Zagari
    November 7, 2014

    Dang such stunning powerful shots…BRAVO!!!!

  20. Hamma
    November 6, 2014

    been a fan of national geographic from a child and still am, love the up close photographs, keep taking great pictures of wildlife.

  21. Maggie Campbell
    November 6, 2014

    Unbelievable… Just jaw dropping

  22. laura
    November 6, 2014

    wonderful perspectives- amazing angles of sight and great clarity! Was wondering though if someone helped the wounded bear? I hope so 🙂

  23. hanna
    November 6, 2014


  24. amir
    November 6, 2014

    nice i like it

  25. Mª Paz Laviana
    November 6, 2014


  26. Vanessa Renwick
    November 5, 2014

    Saw the show tonight. Super stellar sublime!

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