Ramar, Baraka, Nadaya, Alpha, Babs, Beta, Binti Jua, Koola, and Bakari, are the names that I became very familiar with for over 14 years. It started back in 2003 at Brookfield Zoo, here in Chicago. I ended up visiting the gorillas a few times a week to take photos. It was simply a fascination of their personalities and expressions. I went during times that the zoo had very few visitors. Most of my time photographing them needed to be peaceful. It was more intimate and I was able to get some great shots this way. The first images were taken with a Minolta Maxxum 7 & Sigma 70-200 2.8, 2x Teleconverter, with Kodak T-Max 3200 film, and then printed on Ilford RC Pearl. I shot a lot of film back then. I still have hundreds of shots on film that have never been scanned or printed. Perhaps it’s time to get those digitized. When I turned to digital in 2006, I went back to visit again.
This time, I stuck to my routine as before. But I found myself going even more in the off seasons of Fall and Winter. It has a very different feeling and it’s completely serene with no one around. Much of the time, I felt that I had the zoo to myself. I got some of the best shots in one day. It almost felt as if they were posing. Binti Jua was definitely doing so. At this time, Baraka and Babs had passed away, Nadaya had grown, and Bakari was born. Much had changed.
There was a large gap for the next visit. I had moved to California and settled in several other places before I came back around to Chicago in 2012. I knew I was overdue to see how the family was doing. Beta and Alpha had passed away. Nadaya and Bakari were transferred to St Louis Zoo and Ramar was retiring. Jojo had become the new boss man. I’m not familiar with the new members that have arrived. It will take some time for me to visit and get to know their names and personalities.
2017 Pictured below: Jojo, Binti Jua, and I believe that may be Nora.
2012 Pictured below: Ramar, Koola (I think), and some other members of the zoological family.
2006 Pictured below: Bakari, Binti, Nadaya, and Ramar.
2003 Pictured below: Baraka, Ramar, Babs and Nadaya.