"James and Other Apes" by James Mollison, 2004

James Mollison Photography: “James & Other Apes”, 2004, Digital C-type prints, 50x68cm / 120x164cm, published by Chris Boot, 112 pages, 50 colour photographs. © James Mollison, 2011.

Artist statement:

While watching a nature program on primates I was struck by their facial similarity to our own. Humans are clearly different to animals, but the great apes inhabit that grey area between man and animal. I thought it would be interesting to try to photograph gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans using the aesthetic of the passport photograph- its ubiquitous style inferring the idea of identity.
I decided against photographing in zoos or using ‘animal actors’ but traveled to Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia to meet orphans of the bush meat trade and live pet trade.

The book is available on Amazon. Here’s the product description:

Fifty great apes–chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos, our closest biological relatives–are featured in this series of portraits by James Mollison. Photographed over a span of four years in seven ape sanctuaries (in Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Germany and the United States), they are mainly orphans, victims of the illicit trade in “bushmeat.” Djeke, Fizi, Gregoire, James, Koto and the others are all photographed as unique individuals, in the manner of passport photographs, while representing species whose survival is under threat. Featuring case note biographies and introduced with a powerful essay by Jane Goodall, this book celebrates the great apes. The faces that look back at us also raise profound moral and scientific questions–including what it means to define ourselves “human.”

About the photographer:

James Mollison was born in Kenya in 1973 and grew up in England. After studying Art and Design at Oxford Brookes University, and later film and photography at Newport School of Art and Design, he moved to Italy to work at Benetton’s creative lab, Fabrica. His work has been widely published throughout the world including by Colors, The New York Times Magazine, the Guardian magazine, The Paris Review, The New Yorker and Le Monde. His latest book Disciples was published in October 2008 following its’ first exhibition at Hasted Hunt Gallery in New York. In 2007 he published The Memory of Pablo Escobar- the extraordinary story of ‘the richest and most violent gangster in history’ told by hundreds of photographs gathered by Mollison. It was the original follow-up to his work on the great apes – widely seen as an exhibition including at the Natural History Museum, London, and in the book James and Other Apes (Chris Boot, 2004). Mollison lives in Venice with his wife. (read more: Biography)

James Millison is represented by the Flatland Gallery. His books are all published by Chris Book (Flash is required). For more about the “James and Other Apes” project, one can visit the Liverpool World Museum website.

• • •

Does the animal have a face? Here are Emmanuel Levinas’ remarks on the problem:

I cannot say at what moment you have the right to be called ‘face.’ The human face is completely different and only afterwards do we discover the face of an animal. I don’t know if a snake has a face. I can’t answer that question. A more specific analysis is needed.

This quote was first published in “The Paradox of Morality: An Interview with Emmanuel Levinas,” in The Provocation of Levinas: Rethinking the Other (ed. Robert Bernasconi and David WoodLondon: Routledge, 1988, pp. 171-72; Google books preview). The quote also appears in Derrida’s book The animal that therefore I am (first published in French as L’Animal que donc je suis, Galilée, 2006; translated by David Wills, Fordham University Press, 2008, pp. 107-108; Google book preview).

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