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The Troubled Relationship Between Humankind and Our Closest Relative, the Chimpanzee
Michael “Nick” Nichols

March 4 - June 10, 2005
Museum Open House: March 4, 5:30-7:00pm

Howard Rubenstein
Caged Chimp at the Monrovia Zoo, Liberia

“How should we relate to beings who look into mirrors and see themselves as individuals, who mourn companions and may die of grief, who have a consciousness of ‘self?’ Don’t they deserve to be treated with the same sort of consideration we accord to other highly sensitive beings...ourselves?
–Dr. Jane Goodall


Photographer Michael Nichols and anthropologist Jane Goodall join forces to present images and commentary that enlighten us about the ways in which chimpanzees are physically, emotionally and intellectually closer to us than we had ever imagined. They show how, paradoxically, humans have forced the great apes into a more human yet sadly less humane existence.

In Brutal Kinship Michael “Nick” Nichols, one of the most superb animal photographers working today, reveals the sometimes fine line between probing inquiry and mistreatment of these creatures, between the love and exploitation of them, in practices such as circuses, animal testing, “domestication” and even, remarkably, in the marriage of a man to a chimp.

Nick Nichols About Brutal Kinship

It is obvious that I use photography as a tool of advocacy. As soon as I became aware of the plight of the chimpanzee at the hand of Homo sapiens I felt I had to make a strong statement and effect change by photographing and publicizing this obvious violation of rights.

Chimpanzees, and all apes for that matter, are revered, adored, even idolized by my culture because of their close relationship to humans. Their similarity to us in intelligence and genetic structure make it possible to learn from them about human thought, speech, sociality, and disease. Yet we refuse to extend to them even the most basic rights that beings with their intellectual and emotional qualities deserve, rights against cruelty and neglect, against confinement and isolation.

Brutal Kinship is about creating awareness and shame about our moral myopia. I say myopia rather than conscious wrongdoing or, simply, evil, because in no case did I find a human who was intentionally abusing any chimpanzee. The people in this book all willingly allowed me to photograph their chimpanzees, because they were unaware that anything was wrong, and I feel some guilt in presenting these pictures. The problem is one of blindness, of misguided love. I saw that the pet owners and, especially, the personnel at the medical labs truly care about the chimpanzees under their care. The caretakers at the biomedical facility are in the most awkward position. They do a job that has a tremendous emotional cost and have virtually no control over the physical conditions the chimps are under, because of the constraints of finance and experimental protocol. But this does not excuse them or us of our responsibility to make the sacrifices required to provide chimpanzees with better care and to make restitution to those whose lives were have so seriously damaged. If we can see that our treatment of chimpanzees has been and is wrong, then we will have truly evolved.

I hope the subjects of this book can see something fair in it and maybe even feel the pain of our vulnerable kin." –Nick Nichols
      Michael "Nick" Nichols
Susie With Owner Dan Westfall, Palm Springs, CA

Michael "Nick" Nichols was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He first came to photography when he was assigned to a photography unit after being drafted into the Army in the 1970’s. After studying photojournalism at the University of North Alabama (where he met Black Star Agency photographer Charles Moore), he started on assignments for German GEO and other magazines. After early stories involving such things as flying into the eye of a hurricane and rafting the Indus River in Pakistan he earned a reputation as the “Indiana Jones of photography.”

In 1983 he joined Magnum Photos as a nominee and in 1988 was named a member. The first story he shot for the National Geographic was about Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico, the deepest and most dangerous cave in the U.S. His work then shifted to endangered creatures such as gorillas, chimpanzees and tigers, and their shrinking habitats. Nichols has remained committed to conservation through his photography, his writing and his role as producer for National Geographic Explorer segments. The conservation of wildlife and the fragile ecosystems that sustain it has become the heart of Nichols’s life work.

Nichols’ pictures and stories have been published in National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Outside Magazine, Life, American Photographer and the New York Times Magazine. His books include Gorilla (with George B. Schaller, Nan Richardson) (Aperture, 1992); The Great Apes: Between Two Worlds (Natl. Geographic Society, 1993); Keepers of the Kingdom: The New American Zoo (with Jon Charles Coe) (Lickle, 1996) and The Year of the Tiger (with Geoffrey Ward) (Natl. Geographic Society, 1998), a visual portrait of the endangered felines, shot in the wild and in captivity.

Nichols received the overseas Press Club prize for reporting “above and beyond the call of duty”, an award usually reserved for combat photographers. In 1996, World Press awarded to Nichols, First Prize in the Nature and Environment category for "Wildlife in Ndoki, Central Africa". His recent projects include Megatransect, an essay documenting Michael Fay's walk across west/central Africa in 2000 (published October 2000, March 2001, August 2001), and Jane Goodall's visit to the Goualougo Triangle in the Republic of Congo as well as the formation of national parks in Gabon in the April and September 2003 issues of National Geographic. For more information about Michael Nichols, see his website at

Michael “Nick” Nichols
Friday March 4, 2005 at 7:00pm
Reception at 5:30pm (preceding lecture)
Theater Center, DBCC Daytona campus

Dr Bill Hopkins
Thursday April 14 at 6:30pm
Reception at 5:00pm (preceding lecture)
Southeast Museum of Photography

Dr Bill Hopkins
Friday April 15, 2:00-4:00pm
DBCC Science Dept., Building 410, Room 134

Click here for exhibition brochure...
Click here for information about Jane Goodall (pdf)...
Click here for press about the exhibition...

I took these photos to let people decide if we are treating these close human relatives with the fairness,
justice, and compassion they deserve
.” –Michael Nichols

Michael "Nick" Nichols Michael "Nick" Nichols
Michael "Nick" Nichols
Mae & Bob Noell, Owners, Chimp Farm, Tarpon Springs, FL Orphaned Chimps, Tchimpounga Community LEMSIP Laboratory's Nursery, NY

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