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Academic & Professional Books  Mammals  Primates

My Family Album Thirty Years of Primate Photography

Art / Photobook Out of Print
By: Frans de Waal(Author)
169 pages, 128 b/w photos
My Family Album
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  • My Family Album ISBN: 9780520236158 Hardback Oct 2003 Out of Print #142857
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About this book

For more than three decades Frans de Waal, the author of best-sellers such as Chimpanzee Politics and Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape, has studied monkeys and apes in zoos, research parks, and field settings. Photographing his subjects over the years, de Waal has compiled a unique family album of our closest animal relatives. To capture the social life of primates, and their natural communication, requires intimate knowledge, which is abundantly present here, in the work of one of the world's foremost primatologists. Culled from the thousands of images de Waal has taken, these photographs capture social interaction in bonobos, chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, baboons, and macaques showing the subtle gestures, expressions, and movements that elude most nature photographers or casual observers.

De Waal supplies extended captions discussing each photograph, offering descriptions that range from personal observations and impressions to professional interpretation. The result is a view of our primate family that is both intensely moving and personal, also richly evocative of all that science can tell us of primate society. In his introduction, de Waal elaborates on his work, his mission in My Family Album, and the particular challenges of animal action photography.


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Frans de Waal is C. H. Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory University and Director of the Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution at the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta. His many books include The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections by a Primatologist (2001), Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals (1996), and Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (1997).

Art / Photobook Out of Print
By: Frans de Waal(Author)
169 pages, 128 b/w photos
Media reviews

"Showcasing 30 years of De Waal's primate photography is a hoot."
Tampa Tribune

"To page through this gallery of beautiful and revealing primate portraiture, guided and informed by de Waal's still very scientifically and pedagogically concerned commentary is to learn to regard these 'beasts' as knowledgeably and as affectionately."
– Ray Olson, Booklist

"Primatologist de Waal provides fascinating glimpses into the lives of apes and monkeys that amply document our kinship."
– Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News

"Frans de Waal, a perceptive primatologist and an eloquent writer, has made a career of studying the social interactions of apes and monkeys in zoos around the world [...] His tight focus on faces, made possible because his subjects knew him so well, conveys a genuine sense of intimacy. Most striking of all the features, though, are the eyes [...] [De Waal] obviously has great love for the apes and monkeys he's known, and his pictures and anecdotes invite the reader to feel, rightly, that primates are members of our own extended family."
Natural History

"[De Waal's] observations of bonobos, chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, baboons and macaques in zoos, research parks and the wild go beyond dry field notes to photographic eyewitness accounts that are immediate and fascinating [...] It is de Waal's half-photojournalist's stance [...] and his other half, the scientist's anticipation and knowledge of social interactions and behaviors, that make this photographic record so compelling. And it is also that meshing of photojournalists' and scientists' attitude of respect for one's subject that invests the book with great awe and revelations that the viewer cannot miss."
– Roni Galgano, San Diego Union-Tribune

"American primatologist Frans de Waal pulls from his years of photographing and researching these animals a collection of images that reveal the emotional and social complexity of primates. Bonobos, chimpanzees, capuchin monkeys, baboons and macaques make up the family album. These photographs, capturing primate interactions, are remarkably similar to images we would find in our own albums – pictures that reveal love, ingenuity, cleverness, humour and deep sadness."
Toronto Globe & Mail

"[An] absorbing collection [...] Rather than harp on the tired theme 'they're more like us than you think,' de Waal instead offers warmly personal explanations of the impressive diversity of behavior among primate species [...] Humor and personality are counterbalanced by deftly inserted scientific concepts and theories, and de Waal's expressive photos draw viewers into the 'soap opera' of the primates' lives [...] This book crosses the species barrier with grace."
Publishers Weekly

"A selection of handsome, intelligent creatures unadorned by human fashion [...] The effect is striking, for in stripping away all artifice from his subjects, de Waal shows his apes and monkeys as creatures much like us [...] Through his eyes, our affinity is all too obvious."
– Robin McKie, The Observer

"[A] book of exceptional photographs and witty, informative captions."
Scientific American

"Frans de Waal's extended family tree is filled with characters that swing from limb to limb. Bonobos, chimpanzees and other primates grace the pages of My Family Album, a collection of beautiful black-and-white photographs culled from an estimated 50 000 frames taken by the primatologist during his 30-year scientific career."
American Scientist

"Primatologist de Waal's striking images of bonobos, chimpanzees, and other primates show that humans aren't the only species to empathize, use tools, play, make eye contact, smile and frown, kiss, have sex in the missionary position, engage in power struggles, ask favors, create alliances, make peace, and seek altered states of consciousness."
– Chris Dodge, Utne

"De Waal combines a crisp, insightful text culled from 30 years of fieldwork with 122 arresting photographs that shock us into recognition that these complex, dignified, highly emotional, sexy roustabouts are without doubt our cousins [...] Their subtle hand gestures, facial theatrics, ecstatic lovemaking, intelligent strategizing and flat-out funny monkeyshines are sensitively interpreted by de Waal's highly personal captions, which expand our understanding of the extended family and cement our kinship with guys just like us."
– Susan Dworski, Los Angeles Times

"A tour through the rich array of community-oriented behaviors [...] among apes and monkeys."
– Richard Conniff, Smithsonian

"A serious as well as charming collection of photographs of primates."
– Lorien Kaye, The Age

"For decades, acclaimed primatologist Frans de Waal has told us in words about other primates and why their behavior is so integral to understanding who we are. With My Family Album he now gives us a visual record of these animals and shows so clearly that they have personality, emotion, intelligence and sophisticated relationships. In other words, they look just like us!"
– Meredith Small, author of Kids: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way we Raise Young Children

"This unusual collection of images reinforces the power of photography to express the complex relationship between humans and other primates. Frans de Waal's astute observations and provocative ideas are a perfect match with his insightful portraits. They reveal the intimacy of his understanding of primates and the kinship we all share with them."
– Frans Lanting, author/photographer, Eye to Eye: Intimate Encounters with the Animal World

"People who study primates for a living are like any other academics; they learn more and more about less and less, relish the minutia, get into obscure academic squabbles. Yet, when all that is stripped away, the lure of primatology is in just looking at these animals, reveling in that shock of relatedness. In My Family Album, Frans de Waal, one of the most distinguished and creative primatologists in the world, takes us through his primatological family album, presenting and explaining photographs of primates going about their behaviors. Arresting photographs, wonderful stories and painlessly, in passing, a tremendous amount of education about primate social behavior. This is a terrific, unique book."
– Robert Sapolsky, author of A Primate's Memoir

"Combining his own collection of sharp, intensely dramatic photographs with crisp and insightful commentary, renowned primatologist Frans de Waal reveals our closest relatives in all their surprising complexity, ultimately to suggest this single, simple truth: We are not alone. My Family Album is a gentle, wonderful book that shows and tells what the excitement of primate-watching is all about."
– Dale Peterson, author of Eating Apes

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