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Published February 14, 2023
The thought of unknowingly coming across a grizzly bear puts an ever-present sense of fear and wonder into one’s mind. Grizzly bears’ relationships with humans have a storied past and differ from state to state.
Julia Cook, a University of Wyoming environment and natural resources, and history major from Cody, and the recipient of the Larsh Bristol Photojournalism Fellowship, spent summer and fall 2022 photographing grizzly bears in Alaska and Wyoming to document their unique connection to humans and the civilized world.
Cook will give her Bristol fellowship presentation titled “This is Grizzly Bear Country: Human-Bear Interactions from Wyoming to Alaska” at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 24, in Room 506 of Coe Library.
The program will be followed by a question-and-answer session regarding the fall 2023 Bristol fellowship application process and a viewing of her photographs in Coe Library’s third-floor gallery. The presentation is open to the public, and the exhibition will be on view through March 31.
The Larsh Bristol Photojournalism Fellowship is an annual award for UW students to support strong visual storytelling projects. It is named in honor of Larsh Bristol, a UW journalism alumnus who died in 2006.
Through her fondness of wildlife and nature, most of Cook’s free time during the summer is spent at Yellowstone National Park. She says grizzly bears fascinate her the most.
“Ever since I was a kid, bears have always been my favorite,” Cook says. “They all have their unique personalities, and it has been a pleasure to watch some of them grow up.”
Before the fellowship, Cook photographed grizzly bears as a hobby but edited out aspects of human society such as roads, street signs and people. However, Cook says that many people do not realize just how close grizzly bears are to human life. Her work documents how people and bears interact.
To tell her full story, Cook traveled to Alaska to access the grizzly bear population outside of Wyoming. Her goal was to document the differences between Wyoming and Alaskan bears.
“In Yellowstone, I will most likely photograph one bear at a time but, in Alaska, I can look out to about 19 different bears in my field of view,” Cook says. “Alaskan bears can get very close to you and remain unaggressive due to how much food they have.”
Cook hopes her presentation will inspire others to go outside and appreciate nature, whether that be an appreciation for bears specifically or the appreciation of the coexistence of nature and society.
“Many people see bears in a negative light, but I want to show that they are not only a little misunderstood, but also can be very beneficial to the state of Wyoming,” Cook says. “The Larsh Bristol Photojournalism Fellowship gave me a purpose to go to Alaska and Yellowstone. I was relieved to go there knowing that I had the personal and financial support of others.”
The Larsh Bristol Photojournalism Fellowship has been hosted by the UW Department of Communication and Journalism since 2008.
“Because of her connection with the Cody area, Julia had an interesting vision to showcase human and bear interaction, especially in Yellowstone,” Department Head Cindy Price Schultz says. “Her presentation will not only show us the visual aspects of this interaction, but it also will be a great opportunity for students to learn about how to apply for next year’s Larsh Bristol fellowship.”
The deadline for the 2023 Larsh Bristol Photojournalism Fellowship student applications is March 24. For more information, email Price Schultz at email@example.com.