Shooting a monkey with a gun
A lot of times, people ask me how did the monkey project happen? Where did the monkeys come from? I was actually photographing an advertising campaign and they used a monkey, called Casey. They brought the monkey to the studio, a chimpanzee. I had absolutely no idea what expectations. I haven't photographed. I've photographed some monkeys in Africa, but not in a situation in a studio in New York, you know. So anyway, the chimpanzee came in and to cut a long story short, I shot with this monkey for about eight hours. I can only say that we bonded. That was the rather odd part about the story is that I actually bonded with this monkey. At one point I went upstairs and the monkey and I sat on the kitchen, and I made the monkey a cup of tea, and the trainer came in and said to the monkey, "You gonna don't forget the tea is hot." So the monkey blew on his tea before he sip his tea. So I sat there in this kitchen of mine, kinda I find myself chatting to this monkey. It was a...
very strange kind of experience. But the monkey was kind of obviously having a very good time. At the end of the day, after this long shoot, doing different things, they were two things happen. One thing that happen I realized that whatever I did, I could get that monkey to copy what I was doing. In other words, if I put both my hands here, the monkey would put, it would copy whatever I did. So if I did a classic evil scene, or evil thing, et cetera then he would just simply do that. I thought that was kind of interesting. I thought this is, I'm able to recreate where the monkey just what I can actually do with a actor or a human being whatever. So it stuck on my mind that. And then at the end of the day, when the monkey was leaving, the monkey actually didn't want to leave me. He got a hold of me and he didn't want to leave, he was screaming which was quite terrifying. He just wanted to stay with me and hang out with me, which was very flattering I might say. Eventually they tore the monkey away from me and got the monkey into it's box, and they got the monkey out of the studio screaming. I thought about this for a while, it always stayed with me. And about six months later, I thought, you know what, I'm gonna get a stylist and a prop person and let's put a shooting together before Casey and really make him a star as it were. I got masks for the monkey, I got various, I did a magic monkey with a wizards outfit. I got several chains, you know. A chained monkeys. I came up a bunch of loose ideas about monkeys. (upbeat music) I don't know why I thought about it was a monkey with a gun. It was something, I'm not a, of course any thinking person, I'm not a fan of guns. But I just thought there were something strange of a monkey with a gun. That later became a very well known shot of mine. In fact, it was one of the few things that I couldn't get the monkey to do is to hold the gun properly. I wanted the monkey to hold the gun like this. And every time the monkey took the gun, the gun was quite heavy, and it will always let it fall. So I ended up shooting the gun pointing downwards, and then flipped the shot up there. I was in front of the monkey when the monkey, he has the mask on, and I started shouting and laughing. And the monkey would just simply copy me. So there was all these picture of the monkey with the mask. The monkey looking sad, I could actually make the monkey look sad. The monkey would look down and looked very sad. So I could do all of these things with the monkey. So it was a perfect, it was actually a fun day, and I actually did all of these pictures. I did about 20 or 30 different situations with the monkey in that one day shooting. It was a personal project with a monkey. People loved it later on. Years later, the prints became quite valuable. Everybody bought them and most of them are sold out. The monkey with the gun was sold out a long time ago. It's this idea for you to be on all of the time. In other words, trying be working all the time. I had the advertising job with a monkey, but there again, at the end of the day, I was thinking how can I turn this whole situation to my advantage, not just doing advertising job with a monkey. How can I make it into something that's more art driven, more of an art project? As far as the camera was concerned, I really had greatly opted for a Hasselblad. I shot a lot of them with a 120mm lens on a Hasselblad. And also against white. I didn't want to have any intrusion of that. I wanted to make them conceptual. There's a lot of people that have taken animals into the studio and done sharp pictures of the animal. But once again, the thing to emphasize here which is pretty obvious, it wasn't just a shot of a monkey. In fact, I did very few pictures of just the monkey. There was a concept behind it. It's conceptual thinking again, comes to the rescue of the shot. Concept planning, planning, planning, planning. Like in real estate, location, location, location. It's planning, planning, planning. (upbeat music)