This portrait taken at around 11,000 feet in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda was as hard earned as any portrait I have taken. It can be a slog up the mountain in the rainy season and even when you encounter a silverback, so many variables that are beyond anyone’s control have to work in the favour of the artist.
Firstly, I prefer cloud cover, as a strong sun scattering shafts of intense light through the canopy of the rainforest is not a good bedfellow for portraiture. Secondly, I always prefer some degree of room to work with and 50% of my trips up that hill have not given me that opportunity - the vegetation is just too dense - on the ground and above. I do need some light to play with to help my depth of focus. Thirdly, the silverback has to play ball - and that is not easy - in my experience the earlier the encounter in the day, the greater the opportunity of meeting an alert and compliant gorilla.
This is the son of Kwitonda - a famous silverback who passed away recently and it is this son who is now the Governor on this side of the volcano. I think his face makes that crystal clear and that was from the outset my intent. He is - at every level - The Governor. It was a good way to end 2019 - the light was kind and the level of facial detail transcends most of my previous work with gorillas.