Zoos often seem to be the gray areas of the conservation world. Some facilities work hard to provide the best care and environments they can to captive animals, while others, such as roadside zoos and marine parks, place profits before the welfare of animals, which can result in some downright pitiful conditions.
It can be difficult to condemn zoos fully, but it is also hard to back them with 100 percent support as other facilities, such as accredited sanctuaries, may do a better job at achieving a zoo’s mission – to educate and conserve.
Regardless of which zoo facilities are doing better work, there is an underlying fact that remains, which is that wild animals are being kept in captivity – an environment that places both a physical and mental divide between the non-human animals and the human viewers.
Professional photographer Anne Berry of Atlanta, Ga. has set out to explore this division through her collections “Behind the Glass” and “Behind the Glass II,” which feature captive primates as subjects, including orangutans, bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, capuchins, gibbons, and others.
“The images I take in monkey houses are special; the glass works as a literal divider and compositional framing device and also as a metaphor for the way man has separated himself and his fate from the animals that share his environment,” Berry tells OGP.
To develop her collections, Berry traveled to a number of countries – from France and Spain to Brazil and India – to photograph primates at various accredited zoos.
At times, she was saddened when enclosures were clearly not large enough for the primates, yet at other times she was able to witness the special bond between certain animals and their zookeepers.
“At the Delhi zoo one of the zookeepers walked with me to the Gibbon enclosure. He did not speak English, but he spoke to the Gibbons, and they came out of their house and answered,” Berry tells us.
Despite these more uplifting moments, Berry’s primate portraits have a rather somber, even forlorn quality to them as ultimately she wants a viewer to look behind the glass at the animals themselves and also beyond the confines of the zoo environment.
“I want viewers to feel a relationship or a longing for a connection to these animals. I hope they feel empathy and want to help. The images speak about the animals rather than about the zoos. Viewers often have a love or hate for zoos, but I hope, regardless of this bias, that they will want to consider the place of these species on our planet and how they can contribute to the conservation of their habitats.”
Berry hopes to make a book out of her primate portraits and give all proceeds from book sales to a foundation that benefits primates.
View photos from Berry’s “Behind the Glass” collections below.
To view more photographs from “Behind the Glass” and other collections, please visit Berry’s website. You can also check her out on Facebook.
All images: Anne Berry
These photos are very interesting. It\’d be nice to see the entire series for each animal. I am sure she edited these photos to elicit the most emotion from people. That\’s what motivates people. Emotion. Whether for good or bad. It\’s unfortunate that her work is being represented in such a disappointing way. She wasn\’t attempting to use these photos to polarize people on the topic of zoos and aquariums. As she said “I want viewers to feel a relationship or a longing for a connection to these animals. I hope they feel empathy and want to help. THE IMAGES SPEAK ABOUT THE ANIMALS RATHER THAN ABOUT THE ZOOS. Viewers often have a love or hate for zoos, but I hope, regardless of this bias, that they will want to consider the place of these species on our planet and how they can contribute to the conservation of their habitats.” Out of all the photos represented here there were only three that might elicit a sad empathy from me. The orangutan looks wise and the chimp with babies looks stoic like an old sepia photo. People will obviously draw their own conclusions due to their own experiences. We\’re all biased that way. I don\’t think anyone should assume to know what an animal is feeling or thinking from one snapshot. That\’s a discredit to the animal themselves. Also, an animal\’s life can\’t be summed up by one snapshot when life is made of so many. It\’s easy to edit photos and videos to help create a bias. Emotional people are easy prey they think with their hearts which can be both good and bad unless it is equally met with intelligent thought and research. Unfortunately, many people won\’t engage in something that takes that much effort. The closeness represented in these photos are possible because of the zoos. That\’s the goal of many zoos and aquariums is to create a sense of closeness and global responsibility by creating memorable moments with the animals that share our planets. They do good work, much more than many of us. To walk away from looking at these photos and only have words to attack zoos and aquariums for the good work they do is an injustice to the artist and her goal of creating a sense of responsibility. Habitats are being destroyed by our own greed. If we are not careful we may not have a wild anymore. Animals are dying by the thousands every day. Take a message from your local zoo or aquarium. PROTECT AND CONSERVE.