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Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan to Exhibit at the National Museum of Wildlife Art

October 11, 2022

On November 5, 2022, the National Museum of Wildlife Art will debut the traveling photography exhibition Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan, featuring Ronan Donovan’s stunning images and videos of wild wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Ellesmere Island in the high Canadian Arctic. Since 2014, National Geographic Explorer and photographer Ronan Donovan has examined the relationship between wild wolves and humans in order to better understand the animals, our shared history, and what drives the persistent human-wolf conflict.

The exhibition, created by National Geographic Society and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, will display images and videos—highlighting the contrast between wolves that live in perceived competition with humans and wolves that live without human intervention. It will be on view at the National Museum of Wildlife Art through April 29, 2023.

Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan will introduce visitors to the daily lives of wolves in the Arctic—how they hunt, play, travel, and rest in one of the harshest environments on Earth—with unparalleled intimacy. By contrast, the wolves of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are fearful of humans, making it nearly impossible to document their daily lives. One of the distinctions made clear in the images is the ability to see wolf pups in the Arctic, which allowed Donovan to document behaviors he had never seen in Yellowstone. Donovan attributes these differences to the fact that Arctic wolves rarely experience negative encounters with humans or view them as a threat—it’s like going back to a time when humans learned from wolves and subsisted on the same prey.

“Wolves are such a fascinating animal to me because of how complex their relationship is with humans,” Donovan says. “Wolves were the first animals humans domesticated some 30,000 years ago and they have lived alongside us ever since as guardians, workers, and companions. Yet as humans moved to more sedentary lives, raising what amounts to easy prey in the form of livestock, wolves have found themselves in conflict with humans.”

As wolves in North America are increasingly under threat due to recent extreme wolf-control laws, and humans continue to impinge on the land and food sources that these animals need to survive, Donovan hopes that his photos will provide people with a better understanding of these often misunderstood animals. He also hopes they will see wolves as they are: powerful, intelligent, social mammals that have evolved to live in family structures similar to humans.

“The way that a culture views wolves can reveal a lot about how a society interacts with their environment—is there a belief of power over animals, or is there a collective shared landscape?” Donovan says. “As a visual storyteller, my goal is to portray my subjects in their most authentic way by showing the challenges they face as well as the tender moments between family members in order to evoke a shared emotion that the viewer can connect with.”

“This exhibition is another testament to the ways National Geographic uses the powerful storytelling to illuminate, educate, and engage audiences around the world to understand and care about wildlife conservation,” Kathryn Keane, vice president of public programming at the National Geographic Society. “Ronan brings us into the mysterious world of wolves with his powerful images and videos. This experience helps us better realize how connected we are to this amazing species and all wildlife in the world we share.”

Curator of Art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Dr. Tammi Hanawalt adds, “We are thrilled to have partnered with National Geographic to have this compelling exhibition premiere at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Where better to have an exhibit about wolves than in a wildlife museum located in the place where they live.” She continues, “Donovan provides a stunning visual story about these two wolves—those of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and of the Arctic—to pose questions about the effects of human intervention in the natural world. Not only can we enjoy the dramatic and touching photography, but through the narrative, we take away a deeper understanding of these creatures and perhaps ourselves.”

The visuals presented throughout Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan were captured from Donovan’s National Geographic Society-funded work in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Ellesmere Island in the high Canadian Arctic. They were featured in National Geographic magazine’s 2016 issue on Yellowstone and in the September 2019 issue, as well as the National Geographic WILD series Kingdom of the White Wolf in 2019, which is available on Disney+.

Wolves: Photography by Ronan Donovan is generously sponsored by Erika and Mick Cestia, Charles W Engelhard Foundation, Marnie Coin-Peterson and Tasso Coin, Cornell Doulgas Foundation, Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, Cindy and Evan Jones, Berthe K. Ladd, Mays Family Foundation, Kent Nelson, Annette and Noah Osnos, Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, Pat Wilson, and Wyoming Arts Council.

ABOUT RONAN DONOVAN

A field biologist turned conservation photographer and filmmaker, Ronan Donovan has explored the human relationship to nature and wildlife on all seven continents. Donovan’s passion for conserving wild animals and wild places was ignited as a child growing up in Vermont and later during his years as a wildlife field biologist researching spotted owls and chimpanzees. He transitioned to visual storytelling as a way to amplify the wildlife researchers and conservationists that Donovan collaborated with. In addition to his National Geographic work on wolves, Donovan has documented human-chimpanzee conflicts in Uganda, and the legacy work of primatologist Dian Fossey focused on mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Donovan strives to reconnect viewers to the natural world through the lives of our fellow social mammals to highlight our shared past and interwoven future.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories, and content. To learn more, visit nationalgeographic.org or follow on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.