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Pictures We Love: Our Animal Connection

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Florida animal trainer Pamela Rosaire Zoppe bought Chance from pet owners who could no longer keep him. He now appears in Hollywood films. ''Chimps are so intelligent that they get bored,''she says.

At National Geographic, photography is what holds our stories together and what makes them shine. It’s what we do the best and love the most. Our photo editors work with thousands of images every year (if not every day) and so we asked each of them—editors from National Geographic Magazine, News, Traveler, Your Shot, and Proof—to share one picture that stood out for them in 2014. We didn’t ask them to talk about the “best” photo, but the one that resonated with them the most. Over the coming days, we’ll bring you their personal reflections and share the heart of what we’ve been up to this year.

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Sebastián García relaxes with his dog after roping a bull. The unequivocal brutality of rounding up feral livestock is offset by a deep tenderness between men and dogs. “Without them we are nothing,” he says. “Cowboys on the Edge,” December 2014 Photograph by Tomás Munita

My reflection on this photo can’t be said better than the caption, but to me, the intimacy is striking—both between viewer and photograph, and man and dog. We’re being let in on a moment in this story, obviously taken in a quiet pause after something gruesome that man and dog endured together.

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Mr. Ozzy, bath day “Not Your Average Pet,” September 2014 Photograph by Ana Rosenberg, National Geographic Your Shot

One of the elements of a great photo is that it stays with you long past the first viewing. There is something in the picture that your mind keeps coming back to—that you find yourself thinking about months later. This simple yet endearing image of a young boy giving his guinea pig a bath does that for me.

Over the past three years, I’ve lost three beloved members of my pet family, one each year. Some of them needed extra special care, such as baths, during their final months with us. Having a pet is a serious commitment and you can tell from the expression on this boy’s face he realizes that. When I published this photo in a Your Shot story, I first liked the subtle use of natural light to set the mood and highlight what’s important. It was a sweet and funny capture that shows the rubber ducky and guinea pig seemingly in mid-conversation discussing the indignity of bath day. However, now what I love most about it are the memories it triggers of all the furry friends I’ve loved and cared for over the years. And for that I’d like to thank Mr. Ozzy.

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Florida animal trainer Pamela Rosaire Zoppe bought Chance from pet owners who could no longer keep him. He now appears in Hollywood films. “Chimps are so intelligent that they get bored,” she says. “Wild Obsession,” April 2014 Photograph by Vincent J. Musi

My paradigm is that good photography should conjure more questions than it answers. Much more. Vince’s photo of the four-year-old Chimpanzee, Chance, carries this essential quality.

It may be that I’m going through an obsession with Ape-dom this year, but this photo pulls my wonder strings. Should I feel lonely for Chance? Does he feel at ease or boxed and bored in a prison of humanity? His pensive, amber-eyed gaze provokes deep contemplation: What are chimpanzees’ potential, and what is our responsibility as their proverbial big brothers?

As it should, this image guides me through these questions with comparison, then contrast, and ultimately down the road of compassion.

Browse more of our favorite images from 2014 in these related “Pictures We Love” posts:

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