With the notable exceptions of lions, apes and monkeys are my favorite animals to photograph. Their similarity to us humans and the wide variety of facial expressions they are capable of allowing for an anthropomorphization like no other group of animals. For photographers, this is a wonderful storytelling opportunity, and for the viewers, it is a vibrant and fascinating experience to come up with their own stories as they look at the photos.
Recently, I finished a whole series of animal photographs with some new images of apes and monkeys among them. In this post, I’d like to share them with you.
The crab-eating macaque
While monkeys and apes are very similar to us humans in general, I find this similarity especially striking with monkey kids. With their eyes usually being much larger than a human baby’s eyes, their play on the scheme of childlike characteristics is unmatched. In other words: They are unbelievably cute.
The notorious mandrill
Mandrills are fascinating monkeys. With their colorful faces, beautiful fur, and social behavior, they offer ample opportunity for eye-catching photographs. For black&white photographers, however, they are somewhat challenging to capture. Much of the mandrills’ fascination comes from their colorful faces. Once that color is gone, the images tend to look underwhelming at first glance. Apart from other photographic ingredients like dramatic light to bring out the detail or right timing when the monkey does something interesting, for the image to be successful the photographer has to be open for stories beyond the color.
In the following two images, I tried just that. The first one captures a male mandrill in a display of its impressive fangs. The story here is not about color but about strength and power. There’s a raw rage in this shot which reminds us the mandrills are first and foremost wild animals.
The second image tells an entirely different story. The mandrill looks as if it was captured in a state of sinister contemplation. The backlighting casts the eyes in dark shadow, making the mandrill look like monk brooding over ancient lore or an old man silently complaining about the injustice of the world and begrudging the success of those who fared better than him. Of course, every viewer must come up with his own story. The photo, however, offers plenty of inspiration.
The silverback is back
It is the gorillas’ (and especially a silverback’s) impressive appearance that sometimes keeps us from realizing how similar they are to us, humans. I find that when I zoom in really close, exclude the body from the frame, and focus on just their faces, the resemblance becomes striking. A gorilla’s facial expressions can be just as subtle and nuanced as ours. Take a look for yourself.
In both shots, the gorillas appear to be deep in thought, pondering whatever it is gorillas usually ponder. In the second image, the silverback seems to have come to a conclusion – and make a visual statement.
Save the apes
Mankind keeps taking away more and more of the natural habitat of animals (thus risking exterminating them forever) even though[sciences keeps finding new evidence] how similar they are to us. It would be a shame if we would carelessly and ignorantly exterminate our closest relatives.
Fantastic portraits of these amazing apes and monkeys, Christian. Wow.