Harambe was photographer's favorite subject

Posted at 8:25 PM, Jun 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-02 20:25:08-04

CINCINNATI -  Robert Streithorst is heartbroken about Harambe. The photographer says the gorilla had a personality and a brilliance he won't forget.

"When I do photography, I'm always trying to look at the eyes," Streithorst says.

Harambe's eyes shined like gemstones.

The Cincinnati Zoo has been one of Streithorst's favorite places to shoot photos – and Harambe was his favorite subject.

"Sometimes I go two or three times a week. Sometimes it would be a month before I'd go down there. But I always make it a point to go to his enclosure," he said.

Streithorst has been taking pictures for 40 years and  the 17-year-old silverback gorilla was his muse.

"I think the longest I ever spent observing him was five or six hours," he said.

"He's like a teenager. He's chasing the girls. The girls are chasing him. But he would do those unique poses. He would lay down and give you the … It's like I'm shooting a model. There's that one pose that he did where he's like a body builder and giving the side pec pose."

SEE a gallery of Harambe photos on Streithorst's Facebook page.

But he didn't know these photos would be his last. Zoo officials shot Harambe to save a 3-year-old who climbed through the gorilla exhibit's barriers at the zoo.

"I'm going to miss him," Streithorst said,  tearing up, his voice cracking. "He had that little thing in his eye ... He'd noticed the camera. He'd do something silly."

He says he hopes his photos will keep Harambe's spirit alive.

"I hope they remember Harambe because he's the only victim in this whole scenario," Streithorst said.

He said while it hurts that Harambe's gone, he thinks the zoo made the right decision.

RELATED: Zoo builds larger barrier at Gorilla World exhibit.