Before leaving for Zambia, I made a pact with myself that I would try and get some ‘portrait shots’ of the animals we would see. Now, that idea comes with consequences, particularly when required to strictly observe safety distances. (Safety by-the-way, for the animals and their habitat, as well as for us.)
Throughout the book you will find certain close-up, or portrait shots. There is a triptych of monkey shots, of which this is one. Look closely at the reflections in the eyes, you cannot detect the photographer. First clue. I was not so close. The shot is at eye-level, o’ so important for portraiture. So many wildlife shots are made shooting down from the jeep, with the animals looking upwards. No, they need to look into the lens.
The craft here is to take the right equipment (a long lens), and then position yourself in order to get the correct composition. Easy.
But none of that, attracts me to this photo. It is true that our species’ arrogance is to anthropomorphize a little too readily, but in this case, there is no sin. The great break-through in understanding in the mid 1800s was not to understand the origin of life, but to understand the origin of species. We now know how allele frequency in populations arises and that result has been undisputed for some time. So I look at this picture and I notice a human mine, a human posture. My, your, and his 100,000-great grandpa would be ruminating on how his off-spring can gaze at each other in quizzical questioning: do we know each other?