I’ve photographed elephants all over Southern and Eastern Africa. And even though places like Chobe and Amboseli prove to be prime stages to witness these prehistoric animals, this image is rather special to me.
It was made a few weeks ago in “Sibuya”; a fairly small game reserve in the Eastern Cape. You may have heard of it as it was all over the news in the last days. Headlines of the unbelievable story of three suspected poachers who where hunting for rhinos and instead found the mauling jaws of the reserve’s lion pride were published across the globe. It is tear-jerking story which illustrates that animal poaching is indeed a serious issue. Sadly the world needs these kind of stories as an everlasting eye opener.
When visiting this place I got into conversation with Adriaan Louw. Adriaan is a professional wildlife tracker and guide with years of experience in trailing dangerous game such as African lions and leopards. He knows Kruger and the Timbavati as the back of it’s hand. Just to be short: this guy has been places. In those bushfire-lit evenings we talked about the other side of those impressive game drives. Because where people hope to spot an elephant, rhino or lion; poaching and criminal tradecraft are just as well everyday - serious - business. Unfortunately…
When returning to the solar powered tented camp and showing this image, Adriaan’s reaction was rather emotional. Completely silent and tears dwelling from his eyes he said: “This is your job as a photographer”. “Not just make pictures, but to show the world these animals’ emotions”. It’s is undoubtedly the the biggest compliment I have ever heard about any of my images.
This feeling grew over the last week. The feeling it’s not about technical greatness but emotion. Even though it’s razor sharp and perfectly balanced with the dust flying. The feeling that it’s not a “proof picture” but an intimate portrait. Deliberately made with a very wide angle lens and from the ground up. It’s the only way to capture the greatness of this animal and to make the camera an emotional extension. Just as cinematographer Emmanuel - “Chivo” - Lubezki did in Leo DiCaprio’s masterpiece this portrait was named after…
Jochen van Dijk