A Fictional Portrait

For some years now, I’ve been working on a series called”Fictional Portraits.”

The animation below is composed of two images. The first, a side view, was the original shot. It was taken at the San Diego Zoo and is essentially what I saw through the lens.  The second, a head-on shot, is the fiction, although little was added that wasn’t original.

I’ve spent close to 100 hours watching orangutans.  I love these guys.  They wear their souls on their metaphorical sleeves.  Here’s a tip.  The orangs get much more active at the same time the crowds clear out at the end of the day. And, zoo keepers are good about letting you stay until a couple of beats beyond closing time — especially if you look serious about photography.  I often have the place to myself for the last 15 minutes, which is really quite amazing.

Pensive and not-so-pensive orangutan.  A fictional portrait by Steve RossmanThere’s a great story  about one of the zoo’s orangs, named Ken Allen.  During the 1980s, Ken Allen gained worldwide attention for a series of three escapes from his enclosure, which had been thought to be escape-proof. During his escapes, he would peacefully stroll around the zoo looking at other animals, and never acted violently or aggressively towards zoo patrons or other animals. Zoo keepers began surveillance of his enclosure to try to catch him in the act, only to find that Ken Allen seemed to be aware that he was being watched for that very purpose. This forced zoo keepers to go “undercover,” posing as tourists to learn his escape route, but the ape wasn’t fooled. Eventually, other orangutans began following his lead and escaping from the enclosure.  Zoo officials eventually hired rock climbers to find every foothold within the enclosure and then spent $40,000 to eliminate them.   Ya gotta love Ken’s initiative.

Though I’ve been relating this for years, the full Ken Allen story was borrowed from Wikipedia.

As ever with animations, if you want to re-start, just hit the F5 key at the top of your keyboard.

This entry was posted in Fictional Images, Fine Images, Portraits. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Fictional Portrait

  1. What great pictures and what a great story, Thank you!

    • steverossman says:

      Isn’t the story about Ken Allen fun? I’d been telling the story wrong for years. I’d thought the undercover zookeepers (I’d always imagined Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, floppy hats and an instamatic…) had actually succeeded. It’s even better to know that Ken Allen foiled that plot, too.

  2. Jan C Spencley says:

    Oh Steve — another thing we have in common. I love to watch the Orangutans at the zoo. Feeding time (late) is always good. Love both of these photographs. Lost my beautiful framed photograph of Ken Allen (taken and given as a gift by my brother) to divorce. What a character – thank you for bringing him back.

  3. Soulful, pensive and stately! I love these guys! Thanks for sharing, thus reviving the Ken Allen story. Your photo is worth framing!

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