The Life of a Japanese Snow Monkey

article by Vicky Simão , photo by Alamy

Learning intention:  

I am learning to observe the differences in how framing affects the way we view images so that I can apply different styles to my own work. 


Success criteria: 

  • I can connect photos and video to the information in a text 
  • I can make observations about the effects of framing images 
  • I can create my own pictures using framing techniques  


After reading the article, watch the National Geographic video Meditative snow monkeys hang out in hot springs. Ask students what aspects of the information from the article they noticed in the video. Answers may include: 

  • Their fur varies in colour and covers their body 
  • They have pink faces 
  • Some have a fuzzy moustache or wispy beard 
  • They enjoy taking baths in the hot springs 
  • They use facial expressions to show how they feel 
  • They are social creatures with a strong bond 

Scan through the video again, pausing it at 0:35, 0:49, 1:01, 1:44 and 2:15. Each time you pause, ask students to make observations about the monkeys’ facial expressions. Discuss what the monkey may be thinking or feeling and what physical aspects of their faces indicate this (e.g. widened eyes - surprised, relaxed mouth - calm, raised eyebrow - curious). 

Analyse the way framing is used in the magazine photos to draw the readers’ attention to different aspects, such as the grooming and social behaviours of snow monkeys that are shown in the group photos by having the monkeys aligned in a long frame. Discuss the difference between these photos and the close-up shot of the snow monkey, which is tightly frame and therefore draws the viewers’ attention to the face. Discuss the way similar close-up shots are used in the video. 

Explain to students that they will now be experimenting with framing by creating their own art works of snow monkeys. Students should use a single piece of paper folded or sectioned into thirds to draw their own three pictures of snow monkeys. For shots that are zoomed out, they should decide how many monkeys will be in the picture and what they will be doing, based on the behaviours they have learned about from the article (e.g. grooming, hugging, relaxing). They should also consider what the background will look like. They should plan the framing around where they want the viewers’ eye to be drawn to. 

For close-up pictures, students should begin by sketching the outside shape of the monkey’s face, then lightly add characteristics of their choice that show expressions, particularly using the eyes and mouth, as per the observations from the photo and video. Students should then add the colour of the fur around the face. Use the photo from the magazine to remind students that the close-up shot can have the entire frame filled just with the monkey’s face and fur. Students should then add colour to the monkey’s face.  

The art works could then be displayed for the class to observe and discuss the different facial expressions that are shown in each picture.