For a self-described “city girl”, Mary Lee Agnew spends a lot of time in nature. As an artist’s model, Agnew commuted at all times of the day to art classes around Milwaukee by bike. Along the way, she noticed the surprising amount of wildlife present in Wisconsin’s largest city.
“I wanted to capture the stuff I was seeing,” Agnew recalls. She started photographing the birds and small mammals she encountered in her travels with a small point and shoot camera. A fellow photographer she ran into in the field was surprised by her ability to be in the right place at the right time. Impressed, he gave her a better camera with a telephoto lens.
Agnew was amazed by the stranger’s generosity.“I was just astounded,” Agnew said. “I was like: ‘No you’re not, you’re not just giving me this camera!’ And he literally set the backpack down and he said ‘I’m just going to leave it here then.’”.
That stranger’s kind act has paid off for Agnew and her growing audience of urban wildlife enthusiasts who purchase her calendars and follow her on Facebook. To many, she’s known as the fox photographer. She first encountered “Big Red” on the Lake Michigan shore where she documented a successful hunt in which the red fox jumped to pluck a duck right out of the air. The two became fast friends.
“He just trusted me beyond all belief. Astonishing. He would bring his little kits almost literally to my feet,” Agnew says. “It’s like almost like I was one of the foxes.”
In fact, Agnew’s most impressive pictures may not be the ones she has taken herself. The pictures a friend snapped showing her just inches away from the littles kits while holding her camera are remarkable to behold. And a perfect framing of a friendship between fox and human.
Learn More: Wild ride: A photographer’s quest to capture urban wildlife from her bike