National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

The Big Picture

Posted: 6 February 2007


Over the years there have been a few key pictures which have become iconic – symbolising a whole campaign or issue. Yet with time, the stories behind these photographs and the individuals depicted within them, can be lost. So we’ve decided to discuss how the images came about, with the photographer telling the story.

Elisa, Institute of Neurology, London, 1995

Jan Creamer tells how she snapped an image that has become the face of campaigns against primate experiments worldwide:

“It was a long-term investigation – it is the only time to date that a UK lab (Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School) has had its licence revoked as a result of an investigation.

“The Institute of Neurology was the final leg of the investigation. We needed high quality SLR photographs and video to back up the undercover material. I went in with our Field Officer, Cris Iles. Unbelievably, the camera shutter jammed, ruining almost every frame. Devastated. We had to return a week later.

“Elisa was in a small cage on one side of the room with another monkey, Alice, on the opposite side. Elisa was one of those animals with whom you feel an immediate personal connection. I felt humbled on behalf of my species when she looked at me.

“She gingerly picked at the wounds around the electrodes in her head. Photographing and filming her was difficult because of the tight mesh on the cage. Focussing was manual; she was nervous and inquisitive, so kept moving about. Her hands were beautiful; long, elegant fingers. I took lots of shots of her hands.

“Poor Alice was in a dreadful state, with sore red skin, repeatedly circling her cage. I climbed up and filmed her from above. She was so disturbed that she didn’t even notice me. The video sequence is still very harrowing.

“Elisa and Alice were both killed early the next year. These were important images. Last year in the USA I saw three groups using them on their materials, and the footage has been on TV again this year. The experiments continue.

“When we picked up the prints, Tim Phillips remarked that of all the monkeys who had died anonymously at the lab, this one at least might be one whose suffering would be public and which they might regret.”

Back inside the Institute of Neurology.

Ten years of monkey misery, for what?

© National Anti-Vivisection Society