“Each primate's unique personality is recorded. I incorporated elements from paintings, illustrations and my fantasy images into the photographs.” —Robin Schwartz

Primate Portraits is one of Robin Schwartz’s early series. Aperture first highlighted the artist’s work in the publication Amelia’s World (Aperture, 2008) as part of the Tinyvices volumes—photographs of her daughter Amelia with a menagerie of animals. In Primate Portraits, the artist’s focus are apes and monkeys, and all pictures are made within three feet of the subjects and are never shot through bars or Plexiglas cages. Each of the primates photographed in the series are privately cared for, contributing to the diversity of relationships, environments, and personal possessions that the artist captures within her frame.

Schwartz has an uncanny empathy with her animal subjects, allowing for an intensity of eye contact. Photographing on different visits, she becomes friends with the apes and monkeys that inhabit her pictures. She purposely chooses moments that do not represent “the everyday world of monkeys and apes in captivity," but instead what she calls her “dream world of primates.”

Robin Schwartz (born in Passaic, N.J., 1957) makes meticulously composed, disquieting portraits of her daughter, Amelia, interacting with a range of exotic animals, from monkeys to kangaroos. Her startling portraits reference painting and hint at open-ended narratives. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among other institutions. Her photographs have appeared in the New York Times, Fader, Interview, and the Los Angeles Times. Her other books include Like Us: Primate Portraits (W.W. Norton, 1993) and Dog Watching (Takarajima Books, 1995).


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