A bear who was abandoned by his mother and raised by humans now has a career as a model posing alongside children and adults.
Photographer, Mila Zhdanova, 40, from Moscow, met Stepan the 28-year-old brown bear through her friendship with the bear’s owners, Svetlana and Yuri Pantileenko.
Inspired by Stepan’s friendliness around humans, Mila set out to create a series of fantasy-inspired scenes featuring Stepan posing alongside models in traditional Russian dress.
The shoot was done across several months in Moscow, as Stepan can only work for around half an hour at a time.
Talking about the shoot, Mila said: ‘People have some stereotyped ideas about Russia. They think we never smile and have bears walking the street,’
‘We do have bears but I want to show in my pictures that we do smile. Shooting with Stepan is such a treat and I have to restrain my emotions.
‘Stepan is so friendly thanks to his trainers’ care and love. I’ve worked with models from Thailand, Australia, Germany, Britain, and Israel who have all flown to work with him.
‘Some had heard of the modelling bear and had been dreaming of this for five years.
‘The shoots are pure delight. There’s never any issues. I’ve had more problems photographing kittens.
‘I hope people see the beauty and strength in animals and nature through my photos.’
In one image, a woman in a full-length fairy-tale dress held hands with the 750-pound bear as she leaned in for a kiss.
In another, the bear wrapped its hands around a lollipop offered to him by one of his fellow models.
One shot shows a model in a stunning red dress feeding the bear while another shows a model leaning in and cuddling Stepan.
The brown bear has become a widely used symbol in Russia.
Currently, its emblazoned on the logo of the United Russia political party.