I was on assignment on Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea, where a remnant forest still contained some of the rarest primates in Africa. The forest was located in and around a steep volcanic caldera, and was extremely tough to get into. January was considered the only time all year that we could land a boat to get in there and yet poachers were managing to get in and kill the monkeys there.
After a couple weeks of finding the primates too skittish for me to photograph in the wild, I headed out and made my way to Malabo, the main city on the island. It was there I found the main bushmeat market, full of snakes, duikers, pangolins, and monkeys — all dead. Though locals can usually afford chicken (which is much cheaper) many prefer to eat wildlife instead, either for the taste or the status of having the higher-priced bushmeat.
As I made my way back to my hotel, just a half block away, I saw this juvenile mandrill. After getting permission from the owner to put a background behind him, my assistant held up a piece of black velvet cloth the width of his arms and I began to shoot. I believe this animal was reacting to seeing himself for the first time in the reflection of the flat, glass filter on my lens. The shoot lasted just a few minutes, and as I was leaving, I was told by my assistant that it's technically illegal to keep wildlife as pets there. So it's likely this primate was eventually sold and eaten. — I sincerely hope not.
Location: Malabo, Equatorial Guinea
Photograph Date: 2008
Medium: Chromogenic Print