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ONE PHOTO – ONE STORY

03.09.2019

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“This picture was taken earlier this year at the Pata Zoo in Bangkok, a very bizarre place I visited with Daniel Merdes of Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Germany. The zoo is located on the 6th and 7th floors of a shopping centre, right in the middle of the city. Everything is built of concrete, and the first impression is of a dark and depressing place. It's mainly Thais who visit this zoo – and they actually love it. It's a real institution in Bangkok. There are birds, gibbons, big cats, snakes that you can hold in your hands, a petting zoo with goats, sheep, and rabbits. In addition, the zoo has great apes: a chimpanzee, a female gorilla and four orangutans. The animals appear listless, without hope, sad, bored, irritated, broken.

Even though it was not illegal to photograph these animals in their steel and concrete cages, and I looked just like a tourist, I was still nervous. Our intention was to show how wild animals are exploited, humiliated and broken for the benefit of the entertainment and tourism industries – in a place where most don't even see it that way. Fathers with toddlers on their shoulders, mothers wiping ice-cream off the faces of shrieking children, teenagers taking selfies, loud laughter. The animal caretaker with a monkey on his shoulder was kind, and even had a few reassuring words about animal welfare: we're all very happy in here. I was feeling very conflicted. Back out on the street Daniel and I looked at each other in confusion. What had just happened?! What would the animal whose DNA matches our 97 percent, making it one of our closest relative, have to say if he were able to speak?

The Leica CL is great for this kind of assignment. I can react fast and inconspicuously, while being aware of holding a very dynamic work tool in my hands. I felt compact, stealthy and powerful like a ninja. Consequently it was quick and easy to get pictures, and the results are clear and precise.“

Photo: © Björn Vaughn
Equipment: Leica CL with Apo-Macro-Elmarit-TL 1:2.8/60 Asph

Read more about Björn Vaughn's work on the BOS Germany website (German).
© Sumali Agrawal

Björn Vaughn

Björn Vaughn is a filmmaker, photographer and co-founder of Borneo Productions International (BPI), based in Central Kalimantan in the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, since 2009. As a photographer, he focuses on the environment, people, biodiversity and orangutans. His appreciation for Leica started in early 2003 when he worked as a translator and active contributor to LFI for seven years, before finally embarking on a new adventure in the jungle of Borneo.  

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