More words have been written about the dodo than any other extinct animal. Yet the truth is that almost nothing is known of this strange creature. The bird lived only on the small isolated island of Mauritius way out in the Indian Ocean. The first mention of it comes in a book published in 1599. Around 60 years later the species was extinct. What survives from this brief period of interaction with human beings is very little. Some 15 written accounts (most of which are disappointing) a similar number of paintings, a large pile of bones, and a stuffed head and foot.
At the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, in a community-run wildlife reserve called Nyae Nyae, where roughly 2800 San people live today in unyielding conditions, villagers shovel dirt over the skull of a bull elephant hunted earlier in the day. It will be dug up about a week later when the muscles around the tusks have receded.
The hunter will take the tusks home, while the meat, and a portion of the fee will go directly to community members, and to fund for conservation projects to protect the area’s wildlife. There is a trophy hunt limit of five elephants a year in Nyae Nyae representing real money, and a vital source of protein to the San.
Seen from the air Africa can appear as an illusion, rich velds and dramatic rifts, wide deserts and thundering rivers, these seemingly vast stretches of unfettered, unpopulated wild ostensibly forgotten by time and people. At a glance, it could be a repository for all our ideas about wilderness at its wildest. And yet today no patch here goes unclaimed, whether it’s marked, monetized, or fought over. The animals that roam the land have become commodified, part of a new consumerism, marketed and sold, their brands pitted against each other, their continued existence now a question of human demand, whim, and calculation. Wild game is the continent’s version of crude oil—and it too will run out someday. Revenues of hundreds of millions in federal excise taxes levied on hunters go directly to wildlife management and related activities each year in the U.S. alone. And anyone who keeps a freezer full of venison is likely to tell you that the act of killing your own dinner in the wild is more humane than buying the plastic-wrapped meat of industrially raised livestock. This hugely complex relationship that exists between man and animal, the hunter and the hunted, has always been one of the most difficult to navigate; we need to create a space for much needed dialogue, we can not, and should not simply turn away. This story is out in Octobers issue of National Geographic.
King cheetah are infrequently seen in the wild. The last recorded sighting of a king cheetah in the wild was in 1986 in the Kruger National Park. They occur naturally in a localised area that covers adjoining portions of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa (northern and eastern regions of the Limpopo Province). During the 1980s, a number of litters born in captivity contained king cheetah cubs, and since then it has become customary for some of the breeding facilities to focus on sustaining blood lines with the intention of breeding king cheetahs at will. The gene appears to be carried at a low frequency in the wild, and its occurrence is localised. Here in South Africa the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre has a genetic pool of king cheetah genes that can make it possible to breed king cheetah as colour variant, without the intention of breeding the king cheetah for commercial purposes.
These are large scale photographic prints, mounted on aluminium, and weather sealed. We are displaying about 20/30 works from the series ‘hunters’ in the forests around the village. Taking this work back into the environment is extraordinarily powerful. Thanks to La Gacilly for the extraordinary curation of this show. I’ll be talking here on the 03 June, and doing a walking tour through the work on the 04.06
Foto Festival Naarden (FFN) is a biennial exhibition of documentary photography held around the historic city of Naarden, Holland. This year I’ve been asked to show the series ‘safari club’ in the old slaughter house of the old city quarter. Consisting of hand photographic c-type prints, mounted on aluminium, and unframed, the exhibition runs from 20.05.17 to 18.06.17. I’ll be giving a series of talks and a gallery tour on the 21.05.17
This is the third year that Photo London, the international photography fair, takes over Somerset House in the Strand. Open to the public from May 18 to May 21, this year’s fair will see almost 100 galleries and publishers showing work by artists from across the world. I’ll be exhibiting work here included in ‘Via’ from Ethiopia, and from the series ‘handle like eggs’. You’ll find me at Francesca Maffeo Gallery (Stand D11) on Saturday.
This a solo gallery show of a large amount of personal work, mixed in with some of the ‘work’ – this is an intensely person journey for me, a lot I hadn’t ever considered showing. I’m hugely indebted to Francesca for both suggesting this, and curating it so brilliantly. I’ll also be doing a series of gallery walks, and talks about this work, and other projects during the show, so please follow the gallery site for updates.
I’ll be giving the keynote address here at the opening event 03 November 2015 at 19.00h and showing ‘with butterflies and warriors’ recipient of the POYI Environmental Vision Award 2015