For many photographers and film-makers, asking those questions means working in the wild and depicting animals in their natural habitat. But Flach’s work is different. He is cautious about the very concept of “wilderness”. “Once it was where the devil held out,” he says, “now it’s where God’s church is.” His subjects are not wild and his pictures have a rigour which treats the creatures like specimens for biological study, emphasising their form and structure—the fossilised, basalt curl of the millipede; the enveloping display of the peacock, as though designed by an Elizabethan dressmaker with a sideline in satellite dishes. But making the photographs sufficiently disciplined can be hard. When he travelled to a panda-breeding centre in Chengdu, China, last December, Flach had only 15 minutes with a young panda. When it saw the black velvet curtain hung as a backdrop, the panda tore it up. Flach got only one shot in which it wasn’t covering its mouth.
Pictured: White peacock, Pavo cristatus
The flamboyant plumage is used in a courtship ritual called "lekking", which can last days. Flach set up his background a week early, so the peacock would display its tail feathers naturally