David Yarrow – wildlife up close – Interview in RNZ

30th May 2018

Fine art photographer David Yarrow has an eye for wildlife, indigenous communities and landscapes.

He exhibits around the world and his images are highly prized. He often uses a remote-controlled camera to get close-up shots of dangerous animals.

Yarrow donates a portion of his profits from photography to conservation, including the organisations Wild Ark

“We live in an era now when one of the biggest problems is not so much poaching of animals, it’s just population growth and encroachment.

“Wild Ark addresses this by buying land so animals are free to continue to live in land where there will be no encroachment.”

His photograph 78 Degrees North was recently auctioned at Sotheby's London for a winning bid of $157,000 - a record for Yarrow.

The image, of featuring a polar bear waking away from the camera, is a deeply emotional one for Yarrow and represents a special moment in his career. It was taken in Svalbard, Norway last year.

The polar bear was not photoshopped he says. And despite the Nike ‘swoosh’ on the bear’s foot, Yarrow never considered selling the rights to Nike.

Mankind, an image of Dinka people tending cattle in Sudan is one of his most famous. He says is at once "ethereal, serene but also has a menace to it".

“One of the most important words in photography is a fairly unglamorous one, which is research. We knew when we went up to that part of the Nile, the topography was very flat and therefore the only way we could get the biblicality we were looking for was to have raised elevations.

"So we took a ladder all the way up through the Nile and then we had to cross a tributary with crocodiles in it to get to the cattle camp. And the ladder made all the difference, because it gave me 10ft of elevation which meant the picture had depth."

He says the smoke is from dung fires, tended by children, to keep mosquitos off the cattle.

Grumpy Monkey was taken high up in the mountains in Japan where thermal activity creates steam ponds.

“That’s been very popular because a wife’s bought it for a husband saying that’s what I wake up to.”

"That was a very cold day. As soon as the monkey comes out of the steam bath his hair freezes fairly quickly which gives him that punk rock effect."

For 'The Prize' he used a camera with Old Spice on it - lions ae apparently very attracted to the perfume.

"[The lioness] went off with the camera in her mouth and we couldn’t find her for quite a while until she got bored of it and dropped it.

"You get a much greater sense of an animal if the picture is taken from the ground," Yarrow says. "So many pictures of lions are taken from a jeep."

Yarrow is also a philanthropist and an author. His latest book, Wild Encounters (2016) was awarded Art Book of 2017 by Amazon. His royalties are being donated to Tusk Trust, a British charity that focuses on animal conservation in Africa.

David Yarrow is giving talks in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland, organised by MAS (Medical Assurance Society).