Melissa Groo has spent time among the lions and cheetahs in East Africa, she's crept up on bears in the Canadian rainforest, she's even happened upon bobcats in the woods off the highway near her home in Ithaca. As a wildlife photographer, dangerous creatures in dangerous places are her stock and trade. But there is only one animal she's afraid of: Humans. "To be honest, people scare me more than anything else," she told the Upper School during a recent assembly.
But she had nothing to fear from her audience, which was totally, happily captivated by her—and her work. Nearly every image was met with an audible appreciation. "Awwwwww!" for the frisky foxes. Giggles for the exhausted mama squirrel determined to move her brood to a better hollow. And even an occasional somber sigh, as for the sad, arresting image of two scarlet tanagers, dead on a cover of clover, victims of nothing more than a household window, Groo explained.
Groo, who graduated from Greenwich Academy in 1980, was back on campus for an exhibit of her work at the Luchsinger Gallery. "The Peace of Wild Things," on view through April 26, features her award-winning—and just plain winning—work from all over the world. Groo refers to herself as a "wildlife biographer," and her work is characterized by rapport and respect. The show starts in the atrium, with the gallery proper featuring the bird photography for which she is most known.
There, in the comfortable square of the gallery, is the Wendell Berry poem from which the show takes its name. There, among Groo's stunning images, recorded birdsong loops peacefully in the air, a soundtrack that encourages visitors to, like Berry, "rest in the grace of the world."
Throughout, each set piece is accompanied by quotes and poetry. But taking in her nuzzling bobcats, the frolicking foxes, the two tern chicks tucked into a mother's cozy tail, it is Groo's own words that best explain her work: "My greatest joy as a wildlife photographer comes from observing the family bonds among wild animals."
Melissa Groo '80 writes for Outdoor Magazine and Audubon, and her photographs have been published widely, including in National Geographic and Smithsonian, which named one of Groo's giraffe images one of the most powerful last year.
The Peace of Wild Things: Melissa Groo's Wildlife Photography
March 1 - April 26, 2018
This exhibit is open to the public.