Monday, June 9, 2008
Marian Brickner, Bonobo Photographer
Marian Brickner, a native of New York, now living in St. Louis, has worked as a professional photographer since 1983. In addition to having pictures published in such venues as the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Missouri Conservation Magazine, and the Annals of Internal Medicine, Brickner traveled to Nairobi to photograph neurosurgeons doing volunteer brain surgery in the Kenyatta National Hospital.
In 1998, the first book written for the layman about the last ape species known to science was published. It was "Bonobo, the Forgotten Ape", by Frans de Waal, with photographs by Frans Lanting. Marian Brickner was alerted about this must-read book at the Discovery store by her son. She was fascinated by the cover and purchased a copy.
Surprised that she had never heard about bonobos, Brickner realized that the sexy nature of the species was what had kept it out of the popular press in America. She became obsessed with getting the story out about one animal called Linda, and Linda's offspring. She decided that children would be fascinated to learn that apes have families and relatives, so she researched Linda's family tree.
At her own expense, Ms. Brickner, contacted, cajoled, and convinced bonobo holding zoos to let her visit and photograph Linda and her relatives. Eventually, she decided to focus on documenting the growth of one of Linda's granddaughters named Lucy.
At the Milwaukee County Zoo, Brickner first mentioned the idea of a children's book on bonobos. The keepers did not seem too impressed, so she went to several other zoos and photographed the animals there. When she returned to Milwaukee, she showed pictures of one of Linda's sons, a bonobo called Kevin, from the Fort Worth Zoo. When the zookeepers saw Kevin, they exclaimed, "Oh, he looks so much like his MOM!" That was when her idea for a book began to make sense to the zoological world.
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has supported Ms. Brickner for the past four years. She has gone there annually to take pictures of Lucy and the other bonobos in the group. Her book, "I'm Lucy: A Day in the Life of a Young Bonobo", with text by Mathea Levine, is geared for first graders, but all ages love the pictures. While it is available on Amazon, she hopes people will buy it from the website where more money will be donated to the bonobos.
A quote from bonobo advocate, Marian Brickner:
"It isn't fair for us not to know about bonobos. They are too special. Because of this, I set my goal to do a children's book. I realized that I didn't know anything about them, but if I learned how to take a good photographs, I could get children to remember the bonobos. Then maybe they would DO something about the whole issue of bonobos and the environment."