Photographer Pawel Bogumil decided to show the intimate side of Apes in his mesmerizing series called “inHuman,” which aims to widen our view of our fellow inhabitants of Earth and treat them more humanely as possible. “We strictly demarcate the world of humans and animals. Each creature except man we call an animal. Generally accepted boundaries are not contractual but determined, and eliminates any space for beings between these two terms. We describe humans as living creatures, distinguished by the highest degree of development of the psyche and social life, while the rest are mere animals,” writes Pawel in his artist statement about ‘inHuman’. Capturing these apes in their unguarded moments while they brim with emotional intensity, Bogumil gifts viewers with a rare opportunity of discovering that these living creatures also exhibits human-like reactions and also develops genuine care and relationships with one another.
How did the idea for “InHuman” came about?
The whole project began quite accidentally. During my visits to Germany, I decided to go to zoo where I had a surprise meeting with Ivo. Ivo is the only male gorilla in the Berlin zoo. As it turned out, he is known throughout Europe for exhibiting an unusual behavior for a gorilla. Together with him are five females which are of absolutely no interest for him. For him, the most important are the visitors and towords them he focus his activity. Very often you can find him sitting next to glass near the largest concentrations of people. As the crowd thickens respectively, Ivo instantly picks up his titanic body and with huge force stikes the glass right in front of visitors. When the guests runs off terrified he happily starts to run around shouting triumphantly. At other times, in warmer days, you can see how meticulously collects stones from its open run and once in a while throw them public just for fun. When I had my first opportunity to observe his behavior, with every hour it became increasingly clear to me that the various grimaces on his face are not random and represent a variety of mental processes that we decodes as emotions. It was then that I decided to return to the zoo with my camera and turn my observations into series of photographs.
Tell us the process on how you shot each images?
All adult primates are far too dangerous and unpredictable that there is no possibility to enter their runs. It also appears that shooting from the back where the monkeys spend the night is too risky due to possible infections of human origin. Therefore, I had to develop my own method of shooting through the glass walls with light that was already present on the scene. Primates in particular, the gorillas are extremely sensitive to light so artificial illumination of the scene was completely out of the question. In time I was able to sufficiently control the equipment and methods of correction that I was able to photograph even during winter when the apes are isolated within very dimly lit rooms. The black background effect visible on my work is the result of post production, which I deliberately imposed upon from the beginning to enable the viewers instantaneous contact with the subject of my work without distracting them with the context of a zoo.
What fascinating discoveries you had while doing the series?
All the richness of moods and emotions, which for me at first seemed incidental to them were something quite obvious and clear as in everyday relationships with humans. From those meetings I lost doubt that my observations are not just illusions, or coincidences. I think the biggest surprise for me was finding out about the distinct personality of each primate and in particular gorillas. When I was permitted to enter facilities in the Warsaw zoo, and got to know people working with apes better, I came across a unique relationship between a gorilla named M’Tonge and his female guardian. Their relationship was so confusingly similar to the relationship between two people. I also learned not to get to closer than one meter from his female keeper due to fact he treats her like his own. Never in her presence I look him in the eye because he treats it as a challenge. And from time to time show him the pictures I created because curiosity is his second nature. Another time, in Vienna I came across a young Orangutan, who was interested in me so much that he constantly provoked me to put my hand next to his to compare.
What is the narrative or message you want your series to convey?
After my photographic work with great apes I lost certainty of strict division between the kingdom of humans and animals. Asked today about what message I want to convey, I would say that after almost two year’s of observing primates, it forced me to rebuild my opinion anew about who we share this planet with. We should not treat them as mere animals, but maybe we should think of them as self aware non-human persons full of emotions, limited by beastly instincts and reaction’s patterns.
Lastly, tell us about your future photography plans?
I’m currently working on a series of photographs, presenting our civilization and its cultural achievements in an unusual convention where my message is carried by animals used more as material from which I build image rather than its maim object. In addition, I must admit that the primate portraits turned out to be incredibly important experience that inadvertently directed my attention toward the photographic portrait. Developed the technique while working with monkeys has expanded and I hope in the near future also to present a series of portraits of man.
To see more of Pawel Bogumil‘s other works, check out his website. To be considered for Photographer of the Day, follow us on Instagram @resourcemag and e-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “POTD Submission.”