The purpose of this work is to bring public awareness to billions of confined animals in our world. I have approached this difficult subject with compassion and I hope these images and words can help open the true nature in every human heart. May this aid to free all the animals that are unjustly living in captivity. The Criminals is a collection of images that I wish will hold your attention long enough for you to share them and personally act to help end their injustices. I’ve chosen a camera to work with because it is a powerful tool that can change the way we look at our world. As pictures can inform us to see and think more clearly about our current cultural practices. I have been criticized before for having too lofty of a goal with my work; although the present actions to the animals of the world is so dire that there needs to be high goals set in order to raise human consciousness at all within my lifetime.
I have chosen here to focus on monkeys, as human beings might be more likely to see themselves in them. However, all the animals in zoos and industrial animal farms need your undivided attention. These photographs were made from approximately 50 macaque monkeys retained in 20 exhibition cellblocks. The images are documentary style portraits, although the location where I made these photographs I am choosing not to share. As the significance is not where the pictures were made, but the fact that they were made in a public zoo in the year 2016. Today, public zoos all over the world exist as family entertainment and animal exploitation centers. Whether the animal cages are painted nicely and maintained better from one zoo to another is irrelevant to its clear ethical issues. The typical cosmetic concerns for making cleaner and larger modern cages for the animals are carried out more for the viewing pleasure and comfort of the zoo patrons and to maintain a good looking business image rather than for the well-being of the animal inmates. Beautiful cages only strengthens the illusion of animal welfare and it only conceals the animal-abuse and animal-cruelty that is clearly present.
It is an extremely difficult undertaking to make significant and emotionally charged photographs, as most people’s feeling receptors have been dulled from our normal aggressive cultural conditionings. Are we capable today of feeling anything at all beyond our radiated fingers constantly attached to our social media devices? When I approached the primate subjects in this book to photograph, I asked them to express what they wanted to tell the world and that I was there to help them. As I returned to the same location for a few days in a row, I felt that some of the monkey’s recognized me from the day before as they seemed to be more comfortable with me. I photograph what I see, but I also am photographing what they have to honestly give to us with their un-lived lives. At times, when I was alone with the monkeys, I’d softly sing as an attempt to ease their chronic pain and to show them that I posed no threat. Even though I could not physically free them, at least I could give them a small, peaceful liberation in their minds. Music is not only the international language for humans, it is also the universal vibrational language that all animals, insects and plants speak.
Many zoo visitors are delighted to see the monkeys for a few moments and do not stay long enough to see the real depth of their situation. In a few minutes, after most people have left, one will quickly see that their exotic presence is overshadowed by them trying to escape. If the zoo animals could speak to us, then people would quickly comprehend that most of them have become mentally insane from being physically retained for their entire lives. What the monkeys are actually trying to do is to pull the metal cage apart, hurt one other or themselves. However, in the brief moment that a general visitor spends with them, all that most people see from the experience is ‘cute’. Some of the monkeys have rubbed themselves bare of hair revealing naked spots on their skin and even some of the baby monkeys have rubbed themselves of even less hair than the old rich zoo executives. They wait their entire lives for their freedom, waiting patiently for social change and for the metal bars before them to be dismantled. Occasionally, the monkeys make high-pitched sounds like squeaking pet toys and then proceed to chatter on frantically like scared caged birds. After exhaustively working in the 95ºF heat, I take a small brake from my empathic photo work and come back three hours later to find that one of the monkey’s is pacing back and forth in the same spot as when I left and the other one is in the same spot drooling on the ground, but now with enough liquid spit around himself to take a personal bath in it.
Humans visiting zoos with food might get the impression that they are superior to the monkeys by being able to quickly get their attention. Although, the truth is when you run out of food they are not interested in people at all. If you don’t have food or cannot do something for them personally, as it also appears to be true in the human primate world, they are not so impressed. When you are out of food, their attention quickly shifts to the abundant flies present in their cages. This is either because they are hungry or they are attempting to clean up their cell. The monkey’s may also eat flies to kill the extreme boredom of being incarcerated. As many of the holocaust survivors from Nazi Germany played similar games and fancifully told themselves stories to lift their spirits in order to pass the time away. The monkeys will then groom each other and even close their eyes before glancing at their paying perpetrators milling about their cages. Occasionally, the monkeys will throw their own shit or slap water toward the human visitors to express themselves. They also appear to move very cautiously and timidly when the zoo keeper is present. This is the same in human prisons, as the inmates act with order when the prison guards are present.
All that I can say positivity here is that at least these imprisoned beings are being fed a healthy, natural diet when people pay to feed them. The offerings consist of apples, cucumbers, carrots and celery. Their health is very important to the zoo, as it is necessary to have living beings to look at when one pays to see them. It is also general practice for public zoos to feed their human visitors typical junk foods that are scientifically proven to make people sick without a concern. When the average visitor feeds the monkeys, they typically throw food at them like they are trying to hit them in order to win a stuffed animal or like playing catch at a carnival game.. The people also commonly bang on their cages so as if for a brief moment they can feel like a dominant monkey. Oddly enough, people commonly taunt the caged monkeys as if they deserve more abuse than they are already have endured. When one person in a group does it, others follow right along as they must feel some kind of primal need to be part of the group. Why is it that highly developed human beings collectively agree to mentally abuse a harmless being? Especially one that is behind two layers of metal bars and is barely getting their needs met. Many of the injuries present in these portraits are the result of infighting between monkeys that are held in the same cage and from neighboring monkeys reaching through the cages.
How can zoos claim to be a place of protection for their animals? They have taken the animals freedom and destroyed their spirits as a sentient beings. They are also responsible for destroying natural habitats and other species to catch these animals. This contributes to disturbing the peace of our entire biosphere. The scientific act of labeling a living being inside a cage is no longer an important contribution to society, as they have already been labeled and documented. What kind of life is it to be born into a prison and to have to spend one’s entire life in a cage. People who pay and support this global common practice is a public disgrace. If we are going to imprison and incarcerate the innocent, at the very least they should be guilty of something. What they are guilty of is being a species that is extra-special in beauty and uniqueness and the care that they receive for their rare presence is that they get the special treatment of receiving life in prison. They are often given a number or perhaps at best a cute cartoon name and solely exist for humans to look at for a few short moments in time. Here I have taken the liberty of renaming them with proper names of dignity.
Zoo animals also exist to reproduce themselves and are sold into the black zoo slave markets to other private institutions and individuals. At best of the best zoos a small number of babies are successfully reentered into the wild. People should be scared at what they are looking at here, because zoos and other industrial animal agricultural confining business practices are some of the major contributing factors to why human beings themselves acutely suffer. Can you see these beings as you? Freedom is for all beings and is universal. I did not pay to see the glorious animals at the zoo, I repeatedly go the zoo with a heartfelt mission to liberate them. Though I too shutter in great admiration before the ‘animals' incredible precious beauty, just like any other paying and visitor. These innocent monkeys are screaming ‘HELP’ for the whole world to hear and their still wide-open mouths are symbolic for their enduring pain and complete disbelief of mistreatment. They come up on two legs often as to show me that they too are like me. When I look at these animal-people, a silent solo violin plays a heart song for me as the baby monkey sucks her mother’s breast. It is like she is playing it for the whole world to hear and with the sweet intention to make us slowly tear up. This song of pure aware consciousness is available right now for us to download for free on the world wide web. If you are lucky enough to ever touch one of these monkey’s, you will find that their hands are as soft as either a baby's or a grandmother’s. When I blow these images up to life size, I can profoundly see myself and the world reflected in the monkey’s eyes, and I stand free and totally guilty on the other side of the metal bars.
While I was at the zoo, I photographed some young men bullying the monkeys. Then they tried to harass me after they saw that I had photographed them. They were provoking the monkeys when they knew that they should not have been doing so. These young people even had the nerve to further attempt to bully me, even though I am old enough to be their father. They knew they were acting disobediently and they wanted to delete my images and take my camera. The human tribes at the zoo daily frequently come traipsing through the oppressed animal kingdom with their ignorance clanging loudly behind them. They come in groups and growl, grunt, and holler. They slap the glass, bang on the cage and they still can’t hear the sound of their own ignorance. Even with a recorded audio playback blaring their unharmonious sounds they cannot hear or recognize the sounds of their prideful incompetence. It is a shame that the zoo’s owners and the ones that charge people to see their atrocities are never addressed or viewed as criminals. It is like the car manufacturers that never get a speeding ticket, yet whom are really responsible for people’s fast speed. The problem is not improving the zoo, but it’s the manufacturer of the zoo that needs to be addressed and to be put out of business through a global public boycott. They are the slave owners that put the heads that they own out on display and will also put them down by execution if they ever get out of line. They even lend these beings out for other people’s engagements to make more money as rented slave property. Zoo businesses are still publicly legal, yet every authentic, and intelligent human heart knows at its core that zoos are unethical institutions and have no base in morality.
Human children immediately love monkey’s because they can see that they also are little monkey’s themselves. I plainly see that some of the monkeys are more playful than others, and some also act like bully’s just like humans. The monkeys behavior, traits and emotions are in many ways very similar to humans. When one monkey threatens another, then they all begin to accuse and threaten one another. Some of them would also likely be as miserable free as they are caged. Although, being free and miserable is at least one’s free choice. I cannot help from seeing a parallel here to the real story of The Beauty and The Beast. The classic story of what appears to be a hairy-man-beast, but who is allowed to be educated and treated with respect astonishingly evolves into a courtly, noble and highly respected gentlemen. Here and now, may it be forever be true that the one who actively oppresses another will be known as the only true beast living on earth.
It is amazing to me that human beings are so vastly intelligent compared to other species; although at the other end of this same wavelength is that their stupidity also far exceed all others. This wavelength travels so far out into space that no one can see the end of either side. Humans have the most self-inflated perception of superiority and the convenient self-centered inability to bear witness to their own faults. People come to the zoo to see the smart human displays of mother nature explained to them, but unfortunately, the dumbest human-ape of them all is also the well respected owner of the place. Zoos exploit animals and they foster a superiority attitude and mindset. People readily pay to go to the zoo because they love animals, but they cannot see that they have trapped what they love and have extinguished their true lives for a small punch line of color added to their family’s day. When people as a pastime go to the zoo, it is quite difficult to see that their seemingly concerned and educated reality is also a blatant lie. The advertising power of the zoo is geared toward baby animals and human children. This is to ensure that we keep our conditioned behavior of paying for animal slavery and for the owners to keep earning a profit.
At the zoo, I can’t help but thinking that I am looking at an early form of the internet. It may have had its place in history to appreciate the many life forms on earth at one time but it has now reached past its prime. The last recorded zoo exhibits for human beings were recorded thru the 1950’s. I hope that through these contemporary images, one can see the need for liberating these beings. Great heroes have rioted for your personal freedom and civil liberties and I am actively rioting here for your attention and for the animals freedom. Generally, people blindly see these types of images with their eyes open, but with a closed mind and heart. My goal here is to try to help improve people’s vision. This work is done to honor all the beautiful varieties of monkeys. It is also a real attempt to change human consciousness and help to create healing for future generations. My purpose is to bring these beautiful beings into the light in order to eliminate the dark ignorance that presently hides within the common framework of our human minds.
This work is made in memory and in honor of Harambe.
The missing picture of Harambe:
I quietly stood by myself in the nearly empty Cincinnati Zoo after closing time and gazed at Harambe for about a half an hour. At one point he just put his head in his hands for a few minutes as if completely discouraged with only the sound of the fake waterfall. All that I could feel was my cold numb hands and the complete humiliation of being human. He was murdered, after a four year old boy fell into his enclosure while he was trying to help the boy. He was seventeen.
There are a few more pictures from this series in The Criminals gallery on my site.
Thank you for looking, reading, and most importantly caring.