Renegade Monkeys

This article focuses on a series of selfies taken by a Celebes Crested Macaque monkey who seized a camera from a human photographer and absconded with it. The monkey’s smiling self-portraits appeared in the international press, sparking legal and public controversy around issues of copyright, royalties and fair use of the images. Arguably, the very fact of the debate is indicative of the breakdown of the traditional dichotomies that separate the human from the animal, the natural from the technological. It further calls for a reassessment of photography as a unique act that combines all these aspects and yields surprising definitions of agency and creativity. To this end, the article draws on the Vilém Flusser’s philosophy (particularly the concepts of ‘apparatus’ and ‘program’) and develops these to examine the ways in which the automation of photography has changed our perceptions of intention, memory and agency to the point that we are all ‘monkey photographers’.