PDN Photo of the Day

Chimpanzees and Spider Monkeys Relax at Home

Long before she began her celebrated series exploring interspecies interactions with her daughter, Robin Schwartz photographed primates in the spaces they shared with humans. In the series she made from 1987 to 1992, on view in “Like Us: Primate Portraits by Robin Schwartz” at Alice Austen House on Staten Island until May 28, the animals look less like pets and more like grumpy, mischievous or sweet—and hairy—family members. Capuchins, squirrel monkeys and baboons wear dresses and jeans or diapers, and hang out in cribs or on plush couches, in back yards or on kitchen tables. They cuddle with cats and dogs, drink from bottles and straws and play with toys. Moreover, they return our gaze, suggesting a range of emotions and personalities with their nearly-human, super-expressive faces. Using a bright flash in domestic spaces, the images sometimes suggests casual family snapshots. But as Schwartz writes in a statement about the work, her approach was carefully planned. “I incorporated elements from paintings, illustrations and my fantasy images into the photographs and tried to show each primate as a unique individual, with a distinct personality,” she writes. Working up close with a 35 mm lens, “I made friends with the primates and made subsequent visits. Developing a relationship was essential to capture the intensity of eye contact, which shows a consciousness of me.” Rather than documenting the everyday lives of her subjects, Schwartz describes the series as “my dream world of primates.”

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  1. Animals like this should not be living in people’s homes. They are not pets. It’s not good for the people or the animals. It’s completely irresponsible.

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