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Chimp Portraits

I was watching the excellent Chimp Empire on Netflix recently, and with all the fantastic close-ups in that series it got me hankering to photograph some chimps. Then I remembered I'd photographed some before - at my local zoo - ten years ago. So I dug into my Lightroom library and there they were.

A male chimpanzee photographed in low-key style against a black background
Chimp Portriat #1

As a species, Chimpanzees (& Bonobos) are our closest living relatives. That doesn't mean, as some like to infer, that we evolved from them. More that we branched from the same common ancestor species, around six million years ago.

For a really fantastic visual exploration of evolution, check out the Tree of Life at One I could get lost in that for hours.

A male chimpanzee photographed in low-key style against a black background
Chimp Portrait #2

In all honesty Chimps are not one of my favourite species. Their society is dominated by politics, anxiety, and violence; all well explored in Chimp Empire. It's very clearly a snapshot of our own relatively recent past, and in many cases, present. And for me that's what's interesting about them as a photographic subject. Such is the similarity in facial structure, posture, gestures, etc., We see ourselves in them more readily than in other species. And that's what all my portraits are attempting to do. With chimps, that comparison comes very easily to both photographer and viewer.

I recommend Chimp Empire. The scale of it was vast, and the story, cinematography, and attention-to-detail mind-blowing. I would have loved more of it, to be honest. I hope there'll be another series in the future. It's also from the same director as the Oscar-winning My Octopus Teacher, which I recommend even more highly. One of the best documentaries I've seen.





Red Deer Roaring, photographed in black and white


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