Monkeys on a London platform: Photographer takes them for a walk

Written by Staff Writer at CNN London, Alastair Jamieson

While Londoners shiver indoors in December and May, with the temperature falling to -9C, one team is completely free to roam the streets — as long as they’re on a train.

A 30-strong colony of monkeys living on a railway bridge in the city’s Aldgate neighborhood provides a rare opportunity for many to see and touch the creatures. Photographer Guilherme Jeffré, who works for the the French photo agency Sodax, was asked to capture the family’s day-to-day routine by train operator GNER’s commercial services.

“It is not easy to move around the entire platform, but when I got there they were already settling in their bus, so when I got the chance, I took the opportunity to capture them,” Jeffré told CNN.

“There is such a diverse connection between the monkey and the people, it is so positive and the regular encounters with the train drivers is really fascinating.”

“As if I was a piece of primate,” he said.

Where to walk first

After following the monkeys around for about 10 minutes, Jeffré had to make a choice: either to climb down to the platform and wait for a train, or head to another part of the platform, closer to the monkeys’ nest.

“At that moment I decided I wanted to take a photo of the monkeys as they decide how to move around, so I really wanted to push myself to climb down to the platform to get as close as possible,” he said.

Over time, their behavior has evolved to accommodate people.

“It is really normal to see the monkeys going in and out of the platform,” Jeffré said. “It’s almost like they are adapted to us. They go upstairs to see if the trains are moving and a little while later, they go down to see if they are blocking the tracks.

“They also really like to spread their saliva when they pass a person and the different species may smell each other. It’s good for them to have contact with humans!”

You can see all of Jeffré’s images below.

When nature is your teacher

Monkeys pose for Jeffré before he captured this image. The image was shot on the bridge along with subway stop W15 bus. Credit: Guilherme Jeffré/Sodax

When a train is approaching, the monkeys love to keep a close eye on their surroundings.

“Sometimes they will use the train as a tornado to knock out any particles that pass by, while other times they’ll just roam around,” Jeffré said.

The family consists of a mom, and three- and five-year-old children. Credit: Guilherme Jeffré/Sodax

The monkeys live in a network of communities throughout the borough of Aldgate, so Jeffré believed his images would be unique.

“When the day comes to use the train, I know that when I walk up to the conductor, he will ask me, ‘Are you from Sodax?’,” he said. “He’s very happy to see us. If you take one photo from the platform, you can easily assume that the other one was taken at a different place, so people really relate to our approach.”

Jeffré is using this picture to promote a charity for langur monkeys. Credit: Guilherme Jeffré/Sodax

Jeffré is documenting the monkeys’ habits so that future generations can have the same experience.

“The intention is to make photographs that are sent from London to other countries so people will see the friendly monkey world,” he said.

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