Monkey Business

Monday, July 11, 2011




If MoMA was really looking to break ground in their upcoming "New Photography" series, they couldn't do much better than this amazing self-portrait taken by an un-named Indonesian macaque. I'm pretty sure he hasn't exhibited before.

David J. Slater, a British wildlife photographer, was shooting in one of Indonesia's national parks when the black-crested macaque snatched his camera equipment and became enthralled with the reflection in the camera lens. Slater shoots wildlife with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II so his DSLR lens was large enough for a clear reflection.

The macaque shot a couple hundred pictures before Slater was able to recover the equipment. And while many of the shots were out of focus, the majority of the pictures showed the monkeys showing off their teeth as it’s likely the first time they had seen their reflections. Slater said that the group of monkeys was initially frightened by the clicking sounds of the camera, but they all eventually returned to check out the gear.

The image above is actually a cropped version of the full frame below, but I like the directness of this version, the tension between the caricature of a smile and the sadness of the eyes, and the blunt geometry of the composition. Inadvertent or not, I'd still rank it as one of the most powerful and moving photographic self-portraits I've seen.



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