Why: Photographing Geladas Artistically

Gelada is an extraordinary primate to photograph. We had already devoted an article to this animal after a first trip to Ethiopia. We have just made our third trip to this country. One of our three goals was to create artistic photographs of gelada. We spent five days photographing them at an altitude of over 3500 meters (11 500 feet).

Artistic Photograph of a Male Gelada in the Highlands of Ethiopia.
Artistic Photograph of a Male Gelada in the Highlands of Ethiopia.

An Endangered Species

Gelada is an endangered species. Today, it is visible only the highlands of Ethiopia. This animal whose origins to millions of years is herbivore. It feeds in green meadows. Unfortunately, the growth of man-made land, even in the Simien National Park, is causing the disappearance of the natural habitat of the gelada. In addition, soils are eroding rapidly. The food is getting harder and harder to find.

Numerous scientific studies are conducted to better understand the lifestyle of the gelada as in the community conservation area of Menz-Guassa.

During our trip to the Simien Mountains, we also met American scientists who spend more months counting and observing their behavior.

But the number of geladas is still difficult to estimate. Some say the population is around 50,000. But one thing is certain and unanimous in the scientific community: the population is decreasing.

Today, most researchers say the species is on the brink of extinction.

An Extraordinary Animal Beauty

As we wrote in this article, the gelada is a very anthropomorphic monkey. It is very easy for a being to identify behaviors that are like those of humans.

The monkeys communicate a lot with each other. When we spend several hours a day to photograph, we hear a multitude of sounds emitted by animals that move nonchalantly in the meadows. Many reactions follow these sounds. These sounds are not only for adults but also for children. It is an amazing sight to see a female hunt her baby.

The gelada is also called lion monkey because males have a large mane around the upper part of their body. This mane is a wonderful pretext for making backlit photographs. The effects of iridescence obtained allow a development of the bodies and the power of the monkeys.

Females do not have manes, but they have an advantage over males. Their eyes are very expressive and very well cleared. They are perfect for making beautiful portraits.

The artistic approach

For this new animal series dedicated to gelada, we decided to create portraits only in black and white. Black and white is perfect for highlighting the textures and details of monkey fur.

Black and white also brings that touch of timelessness that we always want to put forward in our artistic photographs.

As a result of our large mammal project in Kenya, we also had close portraits. Usually, our style in animal photography is characterized by wildlife environmental photography. We always choose our scenery to highlight the animals we photograph. Usually, animals occupy a small place in our compositions.

This time, we focused on the attitudes and expressions of the geladas. Our goal was to show off the monkeys only using the bodies. We did not want to use sets. The animals had to be self-sufficient. We wanted to create strong photographs without artifice like the sets.

For this series, only the light and the geladas served us to create these artistic photographs.

We used the backlight and iridescent technique or the 90-degree lights.

We wanted to highlight the looks, the attitudes, the bodily expressions.

Our greatest reward for the creation of this series was the meeting with a female and her baby the day before. Initially, she was very suspicious. She did not let the kid approach too close even though he was curious to see what we were doing. Like all children, strange things are objects of lust. We went to the ground a few meters from the group. After two hours of patience, the mother approached us. He let the little fun in front of our goal. It was a moment of extraordinary sharing. The animal world is fascinating.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge the image.

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