Conservation lies at the heart of my artistic practice, a process through which I hope to inspire wonder and curiosity about the living world. Yet unlike standard “wildlife photography”, my aim is not to unimaginatively depict the obvious physical beauty of animals, but to directly engage with them. As individuals. As equals.
Ever since the Enlightenment, humans have sought to rein in nature, dissecting and constraining it by means of complex systems of classification and labeling. This process has been central to the creation of our identity as a species: detached from the natural world. Over the years, language, culture and self-awareness are just some of the characteristics that have been advanced by scientists as defining features of Homo Sapiens. Yet it might be argued that the single most notable attribute setting us apart from other living creatures is precisely this arrogant belief that we are somehow uniquely positioned outside of the animal kingdom and that “nature”, rather than something of which we ourselves form an intrinsic part, is a separate resource that we are free to control and exploit to our advantage.
That we now find ourselves facing catastrophic environmental consequences, ones which threaten our very existence as a species, is clear testimony to the fallacy of this belief. It will take a radical shift in human consciousness to alter this, yet I hope that my photographic work can play some small part in bringing about this change.
Humans were not endowed with any special rights to this planet, rather we are just one species among many. We desire the illusion of control, but in the wilderness life unfolds unpredictably and unrehearsed. On my first trip to Africa I came to realize that other animals exhibit a more authentic way of being: adaptable and in the moment. Since this epiphany, I've sought to leverage my art to bring about change in the way that we view, and relate to, other animals. If we sometimes connect with certain animals it is because they reflect aspects of ourselves that we have forgotten or become unaccustomed to expressing. Animals have a lot to teach us, and through my work I attempt to relearn some of these life-skills that we have lost to culture. To reopen the dialogue between species.
Our lives now depend upon the maintenance of equilibrium and the establishment of more truthful relations with others. Yet relations between species are frequently hostile. At best disengaged. We must reconnect, establish a more holistic understanding. One-on-one.
This belief is reflected in my methods: I often approach subjects in a manner closer to portraiture than is customary in photography of the “natural world”. Furthermore, although I employ digital technologies, I maintain a strong bond with the land, and my artistic background lies in the tactility of painting and the ruggedness of the African terrain. Hence I frequently incorporate the earthy textures and patterns of the organic sphere in the creation of my works.