Mastering the Art of Primate Photography

Previously, I mentioned my failed attempts at taking pictures of monkeys. Primate photography isn’t easy. The monkeys of Jodhpur are quick and crafty, and when you spot them on the move, they’re gone within seconds. For instance, in the old city last week, I looked up to see a whole troop of monkeys bounding from one rooftop to another. One of them even hopped back and forth a few times, taunting me. But they all leapt out of view before I could snap a photo.

Well, I recently got the better of those sly simians. Rather than rambling around on the streets, I found a strategic vantage point above the city, leaving the roof-dwellers nowhere to hide.

I can’t say my success was intentional. At the time, I was more interested in flora than fauna, wandering through a historical garden known as Chokelao Bagh.  The garden, which lies in the shadow of Mehrangahr Fort, was designed more than two hundred years ago by a Maharaja, and its lush terraces hold plants like banana palm, jessamine, and desert apple. The atmosphere is calm and contemplative.

I climbed onto a wall to get a good look at the city below. It was early evening, so the cool air had drawn people outside, and the view from Chokelao Bagh was like one of the illustrations in a Where’s Waldo book, with so many stories unfolding at once that it would have taken hours to keep track of them all. Boys swam in a reservoir; men conversed under the shade of a tree; women in saris sat on rooftops; a white cow tried to climb a set of stairs. And suddenly a bunch of  monkeys wandered directly into photo range. I ecstatically grabbed my camera and pointed it towards them. This was way more exciting than finding a man in a red-striped shirt.

I took plenty of pictures. You can never take enough pictures of monkeys, especially when you’ve been trying and failing for almost a week.  Here are some highlights:

A younger monkey gets groomed

If you look closely at this picture, you can see that the monkey on the left is carrying a baby

If you didn’t want to look closely at the last picture, here’s bigger version

I think the monkeys in Jodhpur are called gray langurs:

This is where I saw the monkeys. At every level of the picture (the stairs, the wall, the rooftop), someone is watching what’s happening below. And of course, I’m watching everything from behind the camera. And maybe someone is watching me from the fort. The whole scene is tied together with a sort of hierarchical voyeurism. When I was taking the photo, I thought that was pretty trippy.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Mastering the Art of Primate Photography

  1. Valerie Avedon Gardiner

    Wonderful photos of much monkey business… Love your tails (!) of India.

  2. Stephen Soltoff

    Congratulations at your success in finally getting shots of the primates. I am looking forward to more photos and commentaries about this interesting city. But If the monkeys, like children in the streets, start asking for money when you take their picture, think “heat stroke” and get medical attention.

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