National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore recently shared a hilarious story of how a chimpanzee peeked into his makeshift studio and destroyed it in seconds.

The entertaining video was posted on his Facebook to feed. Sartore explains that when he started working on his photo ark series, he explored different ways of capturing animals in a studio-like setting.

“I decided that using a paper background for the great apes would be a good idea. It was not,” he wrote.

“I drove from my home in Lincoln, Nebraska, to the Sunset Zoo, Kansas. Their troop of chimpanzees were in their huge outdoor enclosure while my son and I prepared an exhibit space for the photo shoot.

“We brought in a roll of thick, white paper and then cut it to fit perfectly, including the floor. Lots of thick tape held everything in place, and after about an hour we were all ready with the whole room in perfect white. What could go wrong?”

sartore in studio

Although Sartore is fully aware of the power that chimpanzees possess, saying in the video as he records the paper background: “They are quite strong. I heard they could rip your arm off and beat you to death with it. The photographer and his son were quickly disappointed as the chimpanzee made short work of their efforts in the studio.

“The chimpanzees peeked at the setup from a nearby booth, but did not enter the room. Instead, a large male stuck out an arm and pulled the set down;d “a quick grab, he pulled all the paper through a side door. The whole demolition didn’t even take ten seconds,” Sartore writes.

The resulting sped-up video is pure slapstick as the chimp touches the paper, stares at the camera, and rips through the makeshift studio as if picking up a pillow.

“I could hear the chimpanzees vocalizing as they started tearing the paper into small pieces. They had a great time. Me, not so much. We packed up the lights and started the long drive home, hands empty.

“Today we use paint on the walls and floor to do all our great ape portraits. At least that way we know we’ll get our pictures…at least until the chimpanzees learn to peel the paint,” he adds.

The Photographic Ark

The reason for Sartore’s attempt to photograph a chimpanzee in this way is that he was in the early stages of creating the Photo Ark project. He photographs each species against a white or black background, eliminating distractions and ensuring that the animal is at the center of his concerns.

No matter its size, each animal is treated with the same affection and respect. “It’s eye contact that moves people. It engages their feelings of compassion and their desire to help,” says Sartore.

To learn more about Sartore’s work, visit the Photo Ark website. As well as his website and Facebook page.


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