We would like to introduce you to a 28 years old bear named Stepan. Stepan is liked in Russia for many reasons. The bear, when he was a cub, was abandoned by his mother but was fortunately adopted by a loving couple named Yuriy and Svetlana Panteleenko.
When the couple adopted Stepan he was only a 3-month old cub and since then has spent most of his life with humans. With such a long time spent with humans, he has practically become a domesticated animal. The couple has given the love and care to Stepan like any other household would to canine or feline pets.
As for nowadays, this Russian bear is not only a human-loving but also a really friendly bear. Other than this, Stepan has garnered new fame for himself by being the model for a renowned Russian photographer named Mila Zhdanova. Zhdanova approached Stepan and his owners after learning about such an amazing creature living as a house pet.
We were amazed to see the work that Zhdanova has done with Stepan and we wanted our readers to learn more about the cute Stepan and the amazing Zhdanova’s talented work.
Mila mostly works with Stepan in her fair-tail-inspired scenes which makes one remember the scenes for Disney films. Quite a lot of models from all across the globe have come to work with Mila and Stepan. Some of these models have waited almost as long as 5 years to wait for their turn to work with Stepan. In order for creating a more likely illusion of the fairy tales, lots of models opt to pose in the Russian traditional dresses while standing alongside Stepan to have their mesmerizing shots taken.
As we were fascinated with work that Mila has done we wanted to know the reasons as to why did she came up with this whole new idea and what were her reasons for it.
Mila says, “I was exhausted both mentally and creatively after a long project. I seemed to be on the verge of a total depressive breakdown and was considering of stopping photographing altogether. Still, I had a small desire and I wanted to perform a photoshoot with Stepan. I had been watching him for several years. I looked at how he was treated by his owners and I thought to myself that doing this job would be a great end of my photography career.
After my long-awaited photography session with Stepan, I came to the realization that my passion for photography was anew. The traces of depression I had before were now completely gone and this experience led me to reach the net crucial step in my career.”
Mila also had many other reasons that gave her the muc0-needed inspiration for this particular project.
She adds, “This is no secret that most foreigners have a limited association with Russia. This is why to most models to have a photo session alongside a bear seem not only bizarre but also near impossible. However, the models wearing traditional Russian costumes appear gorgeous and when posing with such a massive beast, it seems like a real-life fairy tale. I must also thank my husband who has helped me a lot over the years with all these costumes named “A la Russe” which is his work. often I do not understand as to how he is able to come up with such beauty in his costumes but that might be because he also reminds me of a bear.”
We also handpicked one of the favorite photos of Mila from her project with Stepan.
“My most favorite photo from this entire project was on my first meeting with this cuddly bear. In the picture, Stepan can be seen holding his lollypop in his paws.”
Mila is of the view that her photography is a representation of quite many things which are not related to her alone.
“Through my photos I try to tell stories; not only about myself but also about my country and the entire world. Most people in the world are of vie that people in Russia do not smile but this is not entirely true. Through my work I tell them that even the bears in my country smile despite many people commenting that this is photoshopped, which it is not.”
When Mila needs motivation and inspiration for her work, she has a person in her mind.
“There are quite a lot of photographers and each of them is good in their own special way. But the one I would love to mention today is my friend. She name was Irina Pirogova. Irina was a good and honest person who sued to work with animals long before I or even Stepan started. I am in awe with her style but unfortunately she has passed away due to cancer. Nowadays, I often remember her and I also keep a picture of her on my work table.
I wish for everyone reading this article good health. All of you people need to take better care of yourself and be kind to yourself during these difficult times that have fallen upon the world this year.”
The working process with Stepan is not only interesting but can be amusing sometimes.
“I usually manage the process of filming but one must also need to understand the specifics about working with Stepan. When we arrive at the shooting place, we get everyone to adjust themselves as per the mood of the bear. The model are not posing, instead they are contacting the animal in a natural manner. Stepan is a bear and can never be forced to do anything that he does not like, instead we ask him nicely to do things. Often he does not listen so we refrain from insisting. Still, there is one thing on each shooting job and that are the jokes about the arguments of staff and models with Stepan.”