“It has been said that “the eyes are the windows to the soul,” and I have found this to be true. Not only in people, but also in animals – and most especially in the great apes.”
The series “Almost Human” explores the eyes and expressions of these magnificent creatures, looking for the souls in our most closely-related counterparts. Chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans are so much like us that if you spend a little time with them, you can almost tell what they are feeling. Some are young and playful, some are old and wise, and some are shy and do not want to be bothered. They all have very different personalities and spirits.
Wise. The graying hair and many lines on the face of the matriarch of the chimpanzee family gives her the look of having seen many things during her life. I spent several hours watching the family that day. It was a beautiful morning with gorgeous natural light. I kept watching her because I love the texture in her face. She watched me pretty closely as well. She finally came and sat in a great spot where the light was perfect so I could photograph her.
This series began as a personal project. Actually, it began as with a leisurely trip to the zoo in 2016. Shawna needed a creative spark, and after a hot Texas summer, decided to spend a day clearing her head at a place she has always enjoyed.
Black & White Photography
Mischievous. The baby chimpanzee was about two years old and still keeping close to his mother. I watched for awhile as he played in the morning sun and ate breakfast. Eventually, about half a dozen members of the troop all gathered together and started grooming each other with the youngster in the middle. Amazing!
No itinerary, no pressure, no friends asking to move on to the next exhibit … just a beautiful day outside with the animals.
“I want to show the heart of these beautiful animals so more people can find a deeper understanding and affection for them, and learn more about the conservation efforts in place to help them. What a better world it would be for man and apes alike.”
An avid animal lover, she visited many exhibits, but she really enjoyed watching the apes. Their expressiveness was captivating. The interaction between the adults and the children was precious. Their personalities were so distinct. Some shied away from the camera (or turned their backs completely), but some actually seemed to pose.
*Due to the pandemic, this exhibition was not held at the Tang Museum but exhibited online through a virtual gallery.
Ultimately, three award-winning images were created that first day, and the “Almost Human” series was born.
Lonely. This gorgeous female Sumatran orangutan looked so sad and lonely. She had companions nearby, but she had her meal alone. I spent a couple of hours with them that day and kept wondering what she was thinking.
Ornery. A portrait of a giant Western Lowland Gorilla Silverback. Isn’t he handsome?! He looks like he might hit on a lady in a bar.
Shawna has photographed animals around the world. Her focus has become the great apes, which include Orangutans, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and Bonobos. Three of those species are included in this exhibit, and she recently photographed the Bonobos, so they will be added to the series soon.
Prize Ribbon (1)
Describe your image
Love. The giant Western Lowland Gorilla Silverback and his tiny new son. This moment gave me all the feelings.