21 intimate portraits of rare, endangered, and disappearing animals.

Nature feels different when you can actually look it in the eyes.

For more than two years, photographer Tim Flach has been capturing images of rare, threatened, and endangered animals.

Many of Flach's photos were purposefully framed to resemble portraits of humans, focusing in on the animals' faces. The effect is striking — there's a lot of great nature photography out there, but seeing an eagle from a distance and getting to make eye contact are two very different experiences.


Giant pandas live in bamboo forests in China. It's estimated there are just over 1,800 left in the wild. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

After all, there's some frisson about looking into someone's eyes — a small thrill, or fear, or excitement that comes from the sudden intimacy.

Capturing that frisson wasn't always easy, though. Some shots were taken in nature preserves or zoos, but Flach also travelled the world to find his subjects — including the wobbly-nosed saiga below.

The saiga's ridiculous nose might help filter and warm the cold air it breathes. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

Saiga are wild antelope that live near the Caspian Sea, where locals hunt them down on mopeds. In order to get their portrait, Flach originally had travelled to the region in the summer, but the weather ended up being so hot, it actually distorted his pictures of the rare antelope. He had to go back during the (equally harsh) winter to get the shot.

Flach has now turned his project into a book, "Endangered," which was published by Abrams and is available online. If you want to see more of Flach's portraits, check out 21 more of them below:

1. Axolotl

Axolotl hail from Mexico and, unlike most salamanders, keep their gills their entire lives. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

2. Beluga sturgeon

Demand for beluga caviar has led to heavy fishing of this massive fish. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

3. Bengal tiger

Bengal tigers are some of the biggest wild cats in the world. Fewer than 2,500 may still live in the wild. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

4. Blue-throated macaw

Blue-throated macaws live in Bolivia and are threatened by the illegal pet trade. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

5. Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees are some of humanity's closest living animal relatives. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

6. Crowned sifaka lemur

Sifakas, like all lemurs, are endemic to Madagascar. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

7. Golden snub-nosed monkey

These monkeys live in central and southwest China. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

8. Iberian lynx

There used to be less than 100 of these rare wild cats, but thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers are rebounding. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

9. Gharial

Gharials are related to crocodiles and live around India and Pakistan. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

10. Lemur leaf frog

Lemur leaf frogs are natives to Central and South America and threatened by habitat loss and fungus. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

11. Mandrill

Mandrills are the world's largest monkey and live in Central Africa. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

12. Northern white rhino

Northern white rhinos are some of the rarest animals on Earth. As of this writing, only three may remain. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

13. Philippines eagle

One of the largest eagles in the world, the Phillipine eagle is known for eating monkeys. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

14. Pied tamarin

These monkeys come from a single, tiny area in Brazil. The word "pied" refers to their multicolored heads and bodies. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

15. Proboscis monkey

Hahaha, look at that schnoz. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

16. Ring-tailed lemur

Ring-tailed lemurs are some of Madagascar's most recognizable denizens. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

17. Sea angels

Though these sea angels might look like little airplanes, they are, in fact, a kind of free-swimming slug. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

18. Shoebill

Shoebills live in eastern Africa and are kind of intimidating, if I'm being honest. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

19. Snow leopard

Snow leopards live high in the Himalayas and are famous for their stealth and jumping ability. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

20. Western lowland gorilla

The Western Lowland Gorilla's scientific name is Gorilla gorilla gorilla. That's awesome. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

21. White-bellied pangolin

Pangolins are some of the most trafficked animals in the world. Photo from Tim Flach/Tim Flach Photography Ltd./Abrams, used with permission.

Flach hopes that by framing these rare and endangered animals in this way, it can help people reconnect with nature.

We come from the natural world and depend on it. As our lives become more digital and removed, we need a way to reconnect to the other animals that share the planet with us.

"The most important message is that it’s not simply images of animals but that every aspect of our being is influenced by the natural world around us," Flach told The Guardian.

If you want to see more of Flach's work, follow his Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, or visit his website. His book, "Endangered," is available from the publisher's website.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."