Sensitive, Moving Portraits of Zoo Animals

The Photo Blog
Aug. 30 2013 11:01 AM

At the Zoo, Dreaming of Home

7BerryPersephone
Persephone

Anne Berry

The captive primates in Anne Berry's photographs don't look too happy, but she's not advocating against zoos.

"I think zoos are doing a better and better job of keeping animals and replicating habitats that don’t exist in the wild anymore,” Berry said. “It's not the best that you'd like, but it's keeping species alive."  

Still, the somber mood in Berry’s portraits isn’t accidental. She shoots in black and white and uses a wide aperture on her 80 mm lens because she wants viewers to think about the challenges those animals face in the wild due to the increasing loss of their natural habitat. "I think it makes people have more empathy for them and stop and look at the picture. If they feel sadness and nostalgia, they might think about what's happening," she said.    

8BerryBaboon Window
Baboon in Window

Anne Berry

1BerryMacaque
Macaque

Anne Berry

Advertisement

Berry was traveling with her husband in Paris when she took her first photo of a primate at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes. After that, she said, she'd photograph at zoos wherever her husband's work took them. Eventually, she started making trips with the express purpose of taking pictures of the animals. Since she started the series, she’s photographed in Amsterdam, Russia, India, and beyond.

Berry grew up riding and training horses and has always loved animals, but doing the series made her more attuned to issues of animal welfare. "My photographs are about the beauty of animals but, more importantly, about their plight. The pictorial quality of these images softens the shock, but the punch is there in the eyes and melancholy expressions of the animals," she wrote in a statement on her website.

Although Berry has taken photos of animals in the wild in the past, she said that photographing in the zoos allowed her to get close to the animals and spend as much as several days waiting for the right shot.

2BerryGorilla
Gorilla

Anne Berry

6BerryDrillWuppertal
Drill at Wuppertal

Anne Berry

5BerrySpiderMonkey
Spider Monkey

Anne Berry

It also allowed her to make an artistic statement that she wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise. Berry said the title of the series, “Behind Glass,” refers to the relationship animals have with nature as well as the artist's relationship with her subjects. In both cases, there’s a disconnect. "Where we did use to live in the same environment with the animals, now we put them in a cage. The other part of that metaphor would be the artist watching the world through the glass instead of participating in it. That's interesting to me. There's two pieces of glass between us," she said.

Berry strives to break the barrier between art and activism by using her work to benefit nonprofits. She licenses the photos of the primates to the zoos at which they were photographed free of charge, and she'll also make a catalogue of the zoo's animals upon request. "I feel a responsibility to take part, to contribute. These photographs should be a voice for the animals," she wrote.

Berry is currently looking to publish a book of the photos in the series. She intends to donate the proceeds to a nonprofit dedicated to helping primates in the wild.

12BerryPierreDeBrazza
Pierre de Brazza's Monkey

Anne Berry

9BerryKnocking
Knocking From the Inside

Anne Berry

10BerryBarbaryMacaque
Barbary Macaque

Anne Berry

11BerryMacaqueII
Macaque II

Anne Berry

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 29 2014 10:00 PM “Everything Must Change in Italy” An interview with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 29 2014 1:52 PM Do Not Fear California’s New Affirmative Consent Law
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 29 2014 12:01 PM This Is Your MOM’s Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.