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Masters of Photography

Lesson 23 of 54

Shooting a monkey with a gun

Albert Watson

Masters of Photography

Albert Watson

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Lesson Info

23. Shooting a monkey with a gun
Albert teaches you to always be on the look-out for new projects, and to recognise the power of conceptual thinking. Learn how monkey and a gun came to be created.


  Class Trailer
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1 Meet your Master Duration:01:26
2 Learn from the journey Duration:15:24
3 Using inspirations Duration:08:43
4 Photography is stopping time Duration:09:27
5 Albert's library of ideas Duration:08:30
7 Setting up the studio Duration:04:56
10 Foreground studio set up Duration:08:46
14 Picking the best shot Duration:03:36
15 Working with photoshop Duration:13:14
18 One day with Kate Moss Duration:05:06
19 Learn to have your ideas ready Duration:06:14
20 Using Polariods Duration:06:29
22 Controlling natural light Duration:05:38
23 Shooting a monkey with a gun Duration:06:27
24 Choosing your format Duration:07:13
25 Composition and lens Duration:04:47
28 Creating still life images Duration:13:48
29 Photographing the Lost Diary Duration:10:53
30 Shooting album covers Duration:03:09
31 The Strip Search Project Duration:10:28
32 Shooting Las Vegas landscapes Duration:08:24
33 Photographing Breaunna Duration:07:21
35 Creating the Maroc Project Duration:10:21
36 Creating the Maroc shoot Duration:08:11
37 Photographing sand dunes Duration:04:09
39 Advice on making portraits Duration:10:12
44 Photographing Jack Nicholson Duration:04:21
47 Studio fashion set up 4 Duration:10:48
49 Look inside the picture Duration:02:57
51 Combining nudes and landscapes Duration:04:52
52 A perfect print Duration:07:51
53 The business side of things Duration:06:51
54 Conclusion and farewell Duration:03:55

Lesson Info

Shooting a monkey with a gun

(upbeat music) 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)

Class Description


  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs
  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs


Learn how Albert creates his amazing photographs on location and in the studio using simple explanations.

Albert reveals his shoot secrets on how he photographs Presidents, Hollywood stars, music’s greatest artists, landscapes, nudes, chimpanzees and still life. We follow him on location in Morocco, Paris and in his studio in New York. You will find out where he suggests you look to get inspiration, how to approach a portrait session, see how to light like Albert.

We show you exactly how Albert works on these images after the shoot, it’s all about Albert giving you his ideas and advice and helping you see and create better images for yourself.

It’s not about what camera to use, it’s about how to see and develop ideas, concepts and narrative to make stunning photographs.

As Albert says..."You have to stay switched on"


Richard A. Heckler

"Unless you're Mozart"...this course is an invaluable asset. I'm a pro, humanitarian/documentary photographer, & wilderness...and I've learned much from the 40+ sessions here. This is truly a Master best thing to being with Albert. And although I could watch studio sessions forever, this course offered a very balanced curriculum of technical information, artistic encouragement and guidance, and a open, generous window into the thinking of a gifted artist and photographer, sifted from decades of first class experience. Kudos to all involved. Excellent!

a Creativelive Student

I purchased my first CreativeLive class in 2011 and have continued to purchase many classes over the years. I have learned so much from the many great instructors. This one is not a technical class that will tell you to set your camera at f4, 1/60, ISO 400 and you can get this shot. If you are looking for that, there are many other options. If you have a solid working knowledge of photography, this class is so much more. The way it was filmed is like you are there with him in conversation or in the room with him watching him shoot. To see and understand the how and why he does what he does. Not to take anything away from other classes that have helped to give me a strong understanding of photography, this is my favorite CreativeLive class so far.