October 13, 2010

People often ask me if I personally shoot all the photographs in my photo-essay books, since both words and images are so important in telling the story. The answer is that although I use my own photographs whenever I can, often the subject matter demands photographs that can only be had from specialists. For example, books like PENGUINS or the forthcoming BUTTERFLIES include photos by professionals who have literally spent years observing and photographing these animals. Part of what I do when I’m writing a book is photo research - scouring the archives to find photographs that I believe will best illuminate and in many cases expand on the text. Sometimes, if I find a photograph that is interesting enough, I will even rewrite the page to go with the photograph. It is a fluid process, writing and doing photo research, and one that I really enjoy. 

I do, however, photograph nature and animals often….pretty much every week I find one day when I can get away from my desk and spend time in the outdoors with my camera. We recently visited an alpaca farm in Columbia County, NY, and I found these animals to be irresistibly photogenic. The bangs hanging over their eyes certainly enhance what are already quirky, expressive faces!  

Alpaca grimaces

 We often are tempted to assign human emotions to animals…..like thinking that this little guy is looking at me quizzically. The fact of the matter is, when you get close to an alpaca, it often summons up green liquid (from chewing its cud) to spit at you. Spitting is how they stake out their territory, as well as reinforce the pecking order in the herd. Unfortunately, when an alpaca is sucking on partially digested grass, he often gets a bad case of sour mouth.

So, although I’d like to tell you a lovely story about how this young cria (pronounced "cree-ah," the Spanish word for baby alpaca, commonly used among English-speaking breeders, too) and I established a wonderful relationship, the truth is he was just letting me know I was getting too close to his territory!

 

 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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