In early 2020, when the world went on lockdown at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was in Indonesia to work on my story Primates, a series of portraits of monkeys and apes living in rescue centres. In a nearly abandoned rescue centre in the forests of North Sulawesi I photographed a big group of Yaki, crested black macaques.
For the past seven years, I had been working as a volunteer caretaker for primates at the Dutch rescue centre for AAP (Animal Advocacy and Protection). And now I brought my volunteering and my photography together through this series, made in rescue centres in the Netherlands, Spain and Indonesia. I portrayed animals that had been in the hands of traders, used in laboratory testing, worked as circus animals, or been household pets.
Unexpectedly, the pandemic made the idea behind the series even more urgent. The photos reflect the way we treat animals and our common habitats. Many people today have lost touch with their natural environment, unaware that we are part of a complex ecological system that continues to work. Until we find a new balance, viruses will keep on spreading all over the world.
The photos also reflect the way we look at apes and monkeys, our closest living relatives. How do we, as human beings, relate to them? And what do the portraits tell us about ourselves?
exhibition Gimme Shelter
Somfy Photography Award 2020
october 2 - december 6, 2020
Teten (b. 2012, Indonesia) was rescued in 2012 during a patrol at Lake Tondano in North Sulawesi, where he was chained up and kept as a pet. He was transferred to the rescue centre Tasikoki, in the area of Bitung. That is where he stayed over the past eight years and where a new group was formed. This summer the group of 11 animals was successfully released in the forests in the Gunung Ambang Natural Reserve.
Species: Crested black macaque (Macaca nigra)
Update on the release received 30/10/2020:
“Teten and Augustus were leading their group to encounter wild macaques, but they outnumbered and got separated from the females.
A few weeks later, we found Augustus and Teten together with other wild macaques, trying to form a small group.
The females, including Ireng, joined the wild group that defeated them.”