My transition from Wildlife to Urban photography
Missing in action
So? Where have I been the last three years since my previous blog post? In a short answer, I’ve switched photography genres. No, I didn’t stop being passionate about nature. I stopped wanting to be part of the wildlife and nature photography genre as it stands today. I had my thirty years of pointing my camera at wild and colourful beasties. It was time for a creative change. I wanted the chance to photograph other types of wild and colourful beasties.
I finally faced the realisation that nowadays, urban spaces have more of a grip on me than wild spaces do. Don’t get me wrong – I still love wildlife and wild spaces. I just realised that I preferred sitting in silence in a wild space compared to madly rushing around photographing nature as a profession. To be frank, after all those years of doing it, I just got bored with photographing the natural world. Nowadays I prefer to experience it without a camera.
“If you find yourself uninspired with your work, put yourself in front of more interesting stuff” – Joe McNally
It’s all about change
A few people asked if I was afraid my style wouldn’t travel well as I crossed photographic genres. It’s too early to tell, but I’ve never feared change at any point in my life. Well, not so much that I couldn’t do what I knew was right. In fact, I’ve always been drawn to change. Someone reminded me the other day that you enter this world with nothing, and you leave with nothing. Why would you be afraid to try something? Why would you be afraid of change? Why would you continue to hold onto things just to remain the same?
The only way for me to continue to grow was to shake it all up, inserting myself into a new world that meant starting at the bottom. That excites the hell out of me. Why would I be scared of all the opportunities that will result from that or the people I will meet.
The yearning to go urban was already there
Part of travelling the world to those wild places meant visiting new countries and cities while in transit. My love of travel had influenced my life choices from a very young age. By the age of eighteen, my bucket list was extensive and contained fantastic places to visit on the planet. It included wild species, urban spaces, cities, rivers, people, modern architecture and old ruins.
I grew up on a farm in South Africa with access to all manner of animals, birds and wide-open spaces. Most weekends, we’d get dressed and head into the city to do shopping. I loved visiting the city because it all seemed so foreign – far outside my comfort area. It’s no wonder that I am now at my happiest in tough neighbourhoods and urine-smelling alleyways chasing urban photos. But, before it all changed, something had to happen to fire me up and spur me on to make a move. That happened in a faraway place in Asia. For what seemed like an eternity, the top item on my bucket list was Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Urban travelling man
In December 2018, I found myself on my fiftieth birthday in a mythical place called Cambodia, the fiftieth country I’d travelled to. As Anneli and I walked around the incredible ruins of Angkor Wat, I knew that a change in photography simply had to happen. I had lost my mojo. A month of travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam sorted me out, thankfully. What fantastic places to visit.
Urban photography is a major interest to me because we are but a single species on this planet amongst all the others. I see our urban spaces as concrete havens, little oases holding back nature from overrunning our cement and tarmac world with forests, plants and small animals. I wanted to photograph us, the urban warrior, as we go about our lives holding mother nature back, knowing in a few millennia, it will be fruitless.
My urban photography focuses on my passions for street, architecture, travel and abstract urban photography. There are other sub-genres within the urban sphere, of course, just as there are many sub-genres within the natural world. Those four have formed the cornerstone of my work.
Teaching and mentoring
So, other than dodging Covid for the last few years, I have been shifting focus both photographically and businesswise towards the urban world.
More changes to the website are underway as I work towards new urban 1-2-1 workshops and continue to develop a learning hub for people on their journey to be better photographers. I firmly believe that you cannot be taught photography but can be taught how to learn it. The next part of my photographic journey will be to teach and mentor those who need help to kickstart their journey. It’s been a bloody epic 35 years of photography, and I want to help people make their journey even more epic than mine.