Ashton Kutcher, Snoop Dogg steal award-winning photographer’s ‘monkey on Facebook’ photo

Photo credit: Marsel van Oosten

Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher is in hot water over a photograph he shared on social media.  The photograph in question was that of a snow monkey holding a mobile phone, later identified as an iPhone, in the way human would do. It even held the phone upright, and looked seemingly busy doing something – perhaps checking out the photos or updating its Facebook profile.

Kutcher's post Photo credit: Marsel van Oosten
Kutcher’s post
Photo credit: Marsel van Oosten

Kutcher simply captioned the photo as ‘always working.’ in a post dated July 3.  It quickly became viral, gaining more than 74,200 likes, over 5,250 shares, and almost 1,000 comments.

It became so popular that the post caught the attention of award-winning wildlife photographer Marsel van Oosten who claimed that it was actually a photo he took himself.  van Oosten revealed that the photo is among the 50 nature photos shortlisted by the Wildlife Photographer of the Year jury for the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Online voting ends in September, with the winners announced in October.

It angered van Oosten that Kutcher passed off the photograph as his own, even cropping out his watermark and replacing it with ‘aplusk’.  He later learned this was Kutcher’s social media handle/username.  According to him, Kutcher is among the celebrities who despise illegal downloads of TV shows and movies, yet casually stole another person’s photo, posting a filtered version as his own.

Although he sent the actor 2 emails already, the Dutch photographer was not able to get any response from Kutcher.  Eventually, the actor probably got the message because he took down the post, but still did not reply to any of van Oosten’s emails.

Now that the photo was removed from Kutcher’s social media account, van Oosten found another version in Snoop Dogg’s Instagram account.  The rapper captioned this as ‘???Hahahahahahaah. Yes u’. The post already had more than 36,600 likes and almost 1,000 comments when the photographer took a screenshot of the post.

Snoop Dogg's post Photo credit: Marsel van Oosten
Snoop Dogg’s post
Photo credit: Marsel van Oosten

How he really got the perfect shot

The photo’s popularity in social media is a tribute to van Oosten’s brilliance and the fact he was at the right place, at the right time to have taken the once-in-a-lifetime shot.  According to him, it was not a staged shot but an authentic one taken in Japan’s Jigokudani Monkey Park.

It was taken earlier this year on one of the photography tours he operates around the world.  With a tour group, he was taking photos of the snow monkeys in the park.  The excited tourists happily snapped away, most using their iPhones and iPads.

Out of the blue, a snow monkey grabbed the iPhone from a tourist who had stepped much closer to the enclosure.  The shocked owner screamed at the loss but the macaque ignored her, moving to the middle part of the hot spring, instead.

Despite the owner’s agony, the other tourists soon had a good laugh at the monkey’s antics as it tried to use the phone.  It was even able to trigger the iPhone’s built-in flash.  The monkey’s funny, human-like antics prompted the photographer to caption the photo as ‘Facebook Update’.

This is the original shot:

Photo credit: Marsel van Oosten
Photo credit: Marsel van Oosten