Face To Face: Photography by James Mollison

World Museum

3 December 2005 – 26 March 2006

See larger photograph


Gorilla, Gorilla gorilla
8 years
born Republic of Congo

Parents killed for bushmeat trade. Confiscated from vendor in Pointe Noire. Aged about nine months on arrival. Scar above right eye, two healed cuts on left hand, very thin, coughing a lot, obviously scared. Drank one bowl of milk, one bowl of water, ate one banana. Slept well during night, a lot of scratching, possible mites problem. Recovered health with help of surrogate mother at Projet Protection des Gorilles.

Photographed Lesio-Louna Reserve, Republic of Congo, May 2003.

The exhibition

This stunning collection of 30 photographs by James Mollison brings the visitor face to face with man’s closest biological relative - the ape.

Each face is as different and as unique as our own and has an intensity of expression that is startling. When Charles Darwin studied apes he recorded both intelligence and apparent emotion.

Mollison’s impressive portraits stand at over 2 metres tall. The pictures have been shot on medium format rather than telephoto lens, to create a sense of closeness akin to a passport photograph. Viewing this magnificent display is a humbling experience and forces us to reflect on our relationship with our distant cousins.

The apes portrayed in Face to Face are mainly orphans, victims of the illicit trades in ‘bushmeat’ and live animals. Many were suffering physical and emotional trauma when they were rescued.

All the great apes are under threat in their natural environment due to poaching and the consequence of human activity on the land. While we remain ambivalent about our responsibility to ensure their survival, the apes teeter closer to the edge of extinction.

This exhibition is sure to have a lasting impact on anyone who visits it, particularly those interested in wildlife preservation and photography.


Click on the thumbnails to see larger images of the apes.





Find out more

Photography © Copyright James Mollison

This is a Natural History Museum touring exhibition