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Monday, March 14, 2011

Just hanging out: The nature photographer's daughter whose best friends are elephants, chimps and giraffes

By Daily Mail Reporter

Give me a lift: Shibu's trunk lifts Amelia off the ground as she poses for this photograph four years ago

She's swung on an elephant's trunk, cuddled a chimpanzee and had a nap with kangaroos, but this is no real-life Jungle Girl, as Amelia Forman has met some of the world's most exotic animals just by tagging along with her mother in the U.S.

Her adventures began at the age of three when her photographer mother Robin took her along with her as she went to work at private homes and game parks as far afield as New York and Texas.

Now aged 11, Amelia's mother has produced a series of touching images showing the remarkable bonds the child has been able to form while on the photo shoots.

Go on, gives us a cuddle: Amelia bonds with chimp Ricky during a visit to an animal park

'I love animals and work with them quite extensively,' said Robin Schwartz, who lives in New Jersey.

'I had produced a series called "Primate Portraits" and through that I had built up a network of contacts in the animal community in New York state and subsequently through other parts of America.

'As part of my work with chimpanzees, lemurs, gibbons and smaller monkeys inside a circus family in 2002 my daughter was sometimes there and she was photographed.

'The first time was when she was three years old and she met a young chimp named Ricky.

'Their rapport was instant and they were great together. They just sat there kissing and became firm friends instantly.'

However, in 2004, a double family tragedy for Robin prompted her to embark on what was to eventually become her project and printed as one of a five book series called 'Amelia's World', published by The Aperture Foundation.

Cosy chat: Giraffes Geoffrey and Twig move in for a tete-a-tete with Amelia in this picture taken last year

Time for a nap: The youngster has a nap as she gets up close to these kangaroos

'My mother and mother-in-law died quite close to each other and it knocked me for six,' said Robin.

'After that though, I realised that it was so important to spend time with my daughter.

'So we came to the understanding that if she was to come with me on my photographic work our deal would be that the only times I would take pictures of her would be when she was with animals.

'She loves them, she is so natural with them.

'She is a shy girl, but can have more confidence with a giraffe, or a chimpanzee than a fully grown man or woman could have with another person.

'We spend time most summers attending fairs and meeting contacts in the animal community, where Amelia can come close to elephants like Shiba, who simply picked her up with her trunk.

'That was a magical moment for me and Amelia. It really was like Amelia was talking to Shiba, just like you would with a person. It was beautiful.'

Robin says she is aware of photographing Amelia around wild - albeit highly trained - animals.

'I don't want to put my daughter in harm's way,' said Robin.

'But things can happen any time with anyone. The animals are partly pets, I talk to the owners.

'It is a risk, just like walking to school.

'This is a way for us to spend time together and brings my daughter and me to the animals we both share a deep love for.

'We both feel lucky to get this close.'

With such a close proximity to animals all her life, it is no surprise that Amelia, now 11, plans to work with wild animals in later life.

'I want to become a primatologist when I grow up,' explained Amelia.

'I want to work with gibbons in Thailand, that is my aim.

'The one thing that upsets me most is when people ask me if being close to large giraffes, kangaroos, elephants or chimpanzees is scary.

'It isn't at all, I am not scared around them, we respect each other.

'If I don't like the feeling I get off one animal then I will not go near to it. We are cautious

'But my favourite experience so far has been with a beautiful gibbon called Maddie in Texas.

'I feel very lucky to have had these experiences with these animals.'



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