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Wolf Empire - Scott Ian Barry

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SCOTT Ian Barry’s love affair with wolves began when he was just a child. As an adult, he has devoted his life to them, working with 35 individuals and photographing more than one hundred. And with a wolf by his side, he has lectured at venues across America, among them world renowned Carnegie Hall.

His book, Wolf Empire, is not only testament to that love but, with its stunning black and white images, provides a rare glimpse into the lives of these magnificent creatures – creatures that largely through ignorance are frequently and unjustly maligned.

There are, in fact, more than one hundred images, each with a title. For example, Madonna on Guard, Madonna at Rest and Heads-Up is a rare three-frame sequence of an Iranian Wolf mother and an eleven-day-old pup. And like every image in Wolf Empire, all three are accompanied by Barry’s keen observations and detailed knowledge of his subject.

For instance, did you know that a mature wolf’s head resembles a five-pointed star? Visage, Points Five, a portrait of an adult Canadian Timber Wolf, will leave you in no doubt for it’s clearly visible in ‘the point at the tip of each ear; the point of the nose; and the slightly tufted points at either end of the ruff.’

The images also reveal the many different aspects of wolf behaviour – constructing birthing dens, fighting, playing, hunting, swimming, howling, even standing in what is probably the rarest photo of a wolf ever taken. The wolf in question is a mature black Alaskan Timber Wolf, named Raven, with whom Barry worked.

But for sheer beauty and my personal favourite, there’s Movie Star, an adult Canadian Timber Wolf, known affectionately as ‘Cary Grant’ simply because ‘he was so handsome….a virtual Hollywood version of what it is to be a wolf.’ And I wouldn’t argue with that.

However, as stunning and artistic as the images most certainly are, I can’t help wondering how much better they would be in colour. After all, most of us will never see these beautiful creatures in the flesh. How then can we truly appreciate their beauty, in particular, the extraordinary colour of their eyes – eyes that we’re told are ‘yellow or brown or shades of gold’ – in plain black and white?

That said, leafing through Wolf Empire is rather like looking at a much-loved family photo album and I guess in a way it is – particularly as far as Barry is concerned. More importantly however, in revealing the true nature of wolves, it may well help dispel some of the cruel myths surrounding them.

Wolf Empire is by any standards a lovely book and as such comes highly recommended.