Sad Gorilla

A photo of a very lonely, pensive-looking gorilla from the Seattle Woodland Park zoo

This photo has been at the back of my mind for several years now; I took it in 2018 at the Woodland Park Zoo. I don’t mean to imply that they don’t take care of their animals; I think that animals in zoos, generally, lead very strange lives.

This is not a shot of a random moment that shows something unusual; this gorilla was sitting quietly, rocking, fussing with dried grass, and chewing in a way that looked sad—if a human sat and acted like that, you would immediately think that he or she was depressed. So, anthropomorphizing, but reasonably, I hope.

The photo itself is serendipity; I stopped to observe, and a ray of sunshine broke through at the right moment, illuminating the gorilla’s eyes and giving me a sense of character. I sensed a sturdiness in the face of obstacles, which just feels tragic.

It’s a photo that makes me sad, but its also honest about what I saw. With all that goes on in the world—all the ways that humans hurt each other—it’s just one more thing, but it’s also more than just sad. It’s easy to forget our origins. It easy to forget that we are in some ways very simple creatures who need kindness, room to roam, cooperation, love, fairness and other good things to thrive. How many of us have felt this same way?