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Photographing the beautiful

Elephant walking on the plains during sunset - Bee-Elle - African Wildlife Photography

Having worked for long-term periods in post-conflict zones, remote indigenous areas, informal settlements and some of the poorest places in the world, I have hundreds of photographs of destruction, the destitute, and sometimes the dying. I have met and sat down with many strangers from these lands, shared many cups of tea, and have heard scores of their heart-wrenching stories. In these moments, I never cared much for using the camera. I’d put it down, and just listened. While this is at the heart of community development principles, from a photographer’s perspective, it was also clear that sometimes an image can never pay the story, the emotion, justice. The memories however, and the experience of them trusting me with their stories, remain strong. When I focussed on capturing the beautiful, however, and what I love- animals- things seemed to look different. My perspective changed- it changed what I focussed on, the lens I saw the world through. Moreover, at some point I realised that the power of capturing and expressing the beauty of something can be just as impactful, and can make just as much difference, as capturing images of the sadness.

While I have many horrible photographs of hurt and suffering animals that are almost always too painful to look at- including an elephant with its face cut off- it is a different reality, and sharing these is not my purpose. My hope is that every photograph captures the beauty of our fellow furry, scaled and feathery friends, and all that they are in their natural way of being, and that it conveys at some level, small or large, the importance of how much we need to protect the creatures we share this earth with.

Here’s to respecting life, protecting animals, our wildlife and our planet.

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