Chicago Photographer | Sharon Gaietto Photography
Back in October, I had just finished up a family session at Lincoln Park Zoo and had some time before I needed to head home. So, I walked around the zoo, snapping some pictures and then made my way to the Regenstein Center for African Apes. I never leave the zoo, without a stop to visit the Western lowland gorillas. I could spend all day there, just observing and of course taking pictures.
On this day, October 5th, I was fortunate to capture some great shots of the newest members to the troop. The first baby, Patty, was born on October 11, 2012, to mother, Bana. I was able to grab this shot of Patty before she headed over to her mother and got comfortable. The two were inseparable the rest of my visit. Their close bond was very apparent.
The second baby, Nayembi, was born on November 16, 2012, to mother, Rollie. In February, she suffered a severe facial injury. To say the least, her caregivers were very worried and her recovery was uncertain. Fortunately, Nayembi recovered from her injuries and was reunited with her mother. In August, visitors were once again allowed to see Nayembi and all her antics. As you can see from the pictures, the injuries Nayembi sustained are still very obvious. I would love to say, I know these gorillas so well, I can easily tell them apart. Sadly, that is not the case. The only reason I was able to distinguish between Patty and Nayembi, was due to Nayembi’s injury.
Just like any well prepared mother, Bana feeds Patty before the “photo session” takes place. It was amazing to see how focused Bana was on Patty, but still very aware of all the watchful eyes on her and her baby.
Back in January (2013), when Patty was only a couple months old, the following statement was mentioned on Lincoln Park Zoo’s website, “Bana is a somewhat shy and reserved gorilla—a calculated decision maker and cautious at times in her social interactions. She’s a protective mother and a bit reluctant to let Patty venture on her own these days.” It is clear that even as we approach Patty’s first birthday, Bana is still very much the “Helicopter Parent” her caregivers have affectionately named her.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have Rollie and Nayembi. “Rollie is a rather vivacious gorilla—a good problem-solver and a skilled acrobat. She hasn’t really altered her daily habits since giving birth…it’s just that little Nayembi is now in tow.” It is quite evident that Nayembi has inherited her mother’s “sense of adventure” and “overzealousness”. Nayembi entertained her visitors with a few nosedives from the window ledge.
When photographing a mother with her baby, it’s important to capture special moments between the two. Here, Bana and Patty share a loving gaze. It appears that Patty is going to give mom a quick lick. However, Bana is a bit faster and most definitely soaks Patty with this huge “kiss”.
Another must have when photographing babies, are images that express the fragility and innocence of a baby. It’s important that we photograph these details. They’re only this small once and it goes by so fast. Nayembi was nice enough to demonstrate the fingers and toes shots, that should be on everyone’s checklist.
As I look at the time, I am reminded that my visit must come to an end and this “photo session” needs to wrap up. I reluctantly take my last few pictures. I am grateful for the opportunity to photograph these beautiful creatures. Whether you agree or disagree with the need for zoos, one thing is perfectly clear, we need to be sure to preserve the existence of the Western lowland gorilla.