Amelia Paul Forman was 3 years old when she first befriended a chimp. "You two fell off the chair hugging," Amelia's mom, photographer Robin Schwartz, recalls of her daughter.
Amelia, now 14 years old, is actually named after a capuchin monkey. And her interest in, if not love of, animals is inherited from her parents who have long lived with not just dogs and cats, but also primates, lemurs, and other species more readily found in petting zoos than homes.
Amelia quickly became her mother's muse and model. By the age of 2, the blue-eyed, cherubic girl was already being photographed with her namesake.
This unique relationship between girl and animal, and photographer and subject, is on full display in the collection, Amelia and the Animals (Aperture).
Flipping through the pages, we watch young Amelia gallivant with deers, hug elephants, clutch hairless sphinx cats, run with goats, lounge with a turkey, chat with kangaroos, and bottle-feed a tiger cub. Though the animals filter through and remain unchanged in their own way, often babies themselves, Amelia ages and evolves into a more self-aware yet just as curious teenager.
Individually, the portraits mix the dramatic and fantastical with the casual voyeurism of an at-home snapshot. Viewed as a whole, Amelia and the Animals is a thoughtful meditation on our relationship with the wild we enclose, the pets we adore like family, and the natural world that has changed under our watch. (It is also mildly terrifying to see a child lounge with a tiger cub. Don't try this at home!)
At its heart, though, the book is a delightful, touching mother-daughter tribute to the real and invented worlds parents create for their children. "Photography gives us the opportunity to access our dreams, to discover the extraordinary," says photographer Robin Schwartz. Explore the remarkable reality of Amelia and the Animals.