THE BOOK OF DANIEL (B&W)
Good creative ideas are only as good as the execution and when I conceived the idea of a literal photographic depiction of Daniel in a cave with wild lions, I recognised that pulling it off in the field would be as examining a production challenge as anything we had undertaken.
The fact that we ended up with this image - a career highlight - is testimony to the skills of many South Africans with whom we collaborated on this project, none more so than Kevin Richardson, The Lion Whisperer. It was his behavioural understanding of specific lions within his famous sanctuary that gave me the confidence to even consider emotionally and financially investing in my mad idea. We have worked with each other for over eight years now and have developed a mutual trust. To build a cave and work from within that cave with wild lions is not a brief for a nascent relationship between artist and lion whisperer.
We both agreed that pivotal to the success of the final image was that the lions we worked with should be interacting with each other and not me. If they were looking at me in the front of my heavy-duty cage, it would suggest encroachment and the involvement of another party. There were no third party witnesses to Daniel in the cave, other than spiritual ones.
The lighting was also key and we needed time to look at various options to create the shaft of light. Without a light shaft, the sense of being in a cave would be diminished as opposed to amplified. It was this feature that would also add to the biblical vibe of the photograph which was essential; after all, we were working from the Bible. The low trajectory of the winter sun in Kevin’s conservation was in our favour and suggested that between 9 am and 10 am the light shaft could have the right angle so long as the hole in the cave’s ceiling was accurately positioned.
The plan was that Daniel was the final piece in the jigsaw and we would only bring him in when all else was done, albeit I had a precise position for him in my mind. Kevin’s lions would not show any mercy to our modern-day Daniel and we would never suggest that this image was anything less than two pictures combined.
Good things take time and I always knew this would be a three-day project for me on location. The predictability of the winter weather in the region was a key asset; the cloudless skies gave us identical light day after day and that then gave us optionality and time.
But for others the project was a month, not three days, and I am full of gratitude for the artistic skills of those that made the cave and the attention to detail of the production team led by Theuns De Wet in Johannesburg and Tom Williams in London. From start to finish, this was a team effort and all involved will, I hope, share my pride in the final outcome. I know Kevin does, and that is always the acid test.
There is absolutely nothing in this image I would change and it is authentic for sure. I doubt the idea can ever really be copied, but good luck to anyone that gives it a go. The cave has gone.
Normally our work is in black and white, but I just can’t decide whether I prefer the colour option, so on this occasion there are editions of both.