Snow Monkeys with Jasper Doest

On our radar today is this intriguing series by photographer Jasper Doest, featuring wild Japanese macaque – otherwise known as snow monkeys.


During the 1960s, a woman working at a spa resort in the Japanese alpine region called Jigokudani spotted the monkeys, and, feeling sympathetic towards them due to the harsh weather, began to feed them. They began coming down from the mountains to bathe and eat, and eventually the spa opened up a separate pool altogether for them. Nowadays they are a tourist attraction, and every day busloads of people come down to watch and photograph them.

Taken over the period of a month and a half in the Japanese valley, Doest’s images are mystical and fascinating, and portray the monkeys in a completely new way.


Doest focused primarily on the monkeys as they bathed, photographing them playing and splashing, and concentrated on monkeys’ facial expressions. The images are almost anthropomorphic, with Doest documenting the very human-like characteristics of the monkeys and thereby personifying them.

A Netherlands-based photographer, Doest claims that his inspiration throughout his photography is the natural world and the rare and beautiful visuals that it can offer.


His previous work focuses on similar subjects, from demoiselle cranes in Rajasthan, India, to seals in the North Sea. In the Japanese valley of Jigokudani, there is no sunshine or light apart from the reflection of the snow, and the scent of sulphur is all around due to the thermal spas.


Doest’s aim was to capture that mystical atmosphere. And, with gentle fog, out of focus snowflakes, and delicate drops of water, he achieves just that: beautiful, tantalising, almost supernatural images.

The soft, grey tone of this series is in keeping with his previous work, whilst maintaining that playful attitude. From yawning seals to frolicking monkeys, Doest is one to watch.