David Yarrow’s Wildlife Photography

SLIDESHOW: “Photography is not about a camera, it is about your soul and your brain” — David Yarrow.

​David Yarrow’s monochrome pictures are a powerful window into the animal kingdom, with profits going to the Tusk Trust.

David Yarrow gained international acclaim when he was only 20. His photograph of Argentine footballer Maradona in Mexico holding aloft the World Cup in 1986 became an iconic image. Upon graduation, shortly after he had taken that famous picture, he wanted to pursue sports photography, but ended up butting heads with his dad. So, he went into banking instead, founding London-based Clareville Capital hedge fund. Yarrow eventually sold off the business and became a fine-art photographer. His starkly arresting monochrome wildlife pictures reportedly sell for up to US$30,000 each.

His latest book, Wild Encounters, includes a foreword written by HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William and was awarded Art Book of 2017 by Amazon. All Yarrow’s royalties from the book are being donated to Tusk Trust, a small British charity that focuses on animal conservation in Africa.

He talks to Billionaire about his work.

You seem to have had a varied career.
Well, I worked as a photographer on the 1986 World Cup and the 1988 Olympics. But I was also finishing an economics degree at Edinburgh University in 1988 and, after the Olympics, I decided to be boring and get a job in the stock market. Then came Wall Street, marriage and, sadly, divorce. Photography was my road to redemption. I did not put the camera down but in 2010, after a 22-year gap, I went right back into it full time — just a little older and smarter. Photography is not about a camera, it is about your soul and your brain — these evolve over time. As for the conservation part, it came late and after many trips to Africa and the Arctic. We are sponges to what we see and I felt an emotional pull. My kids and their kids must be able to see what I can see.

Who do you admire most in African conservation?
Kevin Richardson — the Lion Whisperer. He is a bright man with an important voice on the plight of the African lion. There are only 14,500 African lions left — 80 years ago, there were 300,000. Kevin can do more to help than most. To watch him with lions is one of the most surreal experiences that I have had and we work together at least 10 days a year so I am very fortunate.

You’ve been supporting Tusk Trust as its affiliated photographer since 2013. What makes Tusk different to other foundations?
The two most important things about Tusk are longevity and its roots in East Africa. It has many friends on the ground. The British, rightly or wrongly, know East Africa very well. I think the best word is provenance. The Duke of Cambridge is a passionate conservationist and does a great amount of work for Tusk. He has a creditable and powerful voice, and is our best chance of reducing the appetite for ivory and rhino horn in China, Vietnam and in the Philippines. I think he is a very relevant royal and those two words haven’t always gone together.

How do photography and conservation go hand in hand?
Well, for 99 percent of photographers, there is no link whatsoever. They capture the world with their camera and then that’s it. Principally, my link is through fundraising. This year we will give over US$1 million back to conservation through image sales. However, at a softer level, I hope my images raise awareness of the beauty of the planet.

How do you prepare yourself before a shoot?
I don’t really have time to do much. I throw my clothes in a bag in five minutes and spend perhaps a couple of hours on camera preparation. Clothes are less important than equipment. I always bring extra batteries, adaptors and whisky. The research that goes into each trip, however, dwarfs the personal and technical preparation. We will have spent many hours communicating with fixers on the ground to make sure that all is in order. No corners can be cut in the gathering of original content.

What are your top three encounters with wildlife?
That is not easy. I think seeing big groups of elephants cross the dry lake of Amboseli in Kenya is one of the natural world’s great sights. It happens less and less these days. It is elemental and timeless — a real treat.Close-up polar bear encounters get the heart going, that’s for sure. I have had a couple in my time and they always give me an adrenaline rush.Siberian tigers are beasts — they will eat you in a heartbeat. Working inside a cage in -30 degrees with them outside is definitely not a normal day at the office.

Which are your favourite wild animals to spend time with?
Again, not an easy question but there are probably five: the tiger; the lion; the elephant; the polar bear; and the wolf. The tiger is the stuff of fantasy; the lion is the king of Africa; the elephant is magnificent and so intelligent; the polar bear is imperious; and the wolf is a sexy predator. People love wolves. But if I had to choose one animal, it would be the elephant.

Why release your photos in black and white?
It is reductive, interpretive and timeless. Andy Warhol said that his favourite colour was black and his other favourite colour was white. Black and white works in every room whereas colours also clash so designers prefer the removal of noise.

What future projects are you working on?
Right now, I am off to try to photograph the last big tuskers in the world. These are the elephants whose tusks touch the ground. There are only about 16 left in the world, mostly in Tsavo in Kenya and that is where I am going. In the winter, I have plans to work in the cold with orcas in northern Norway; Siberian tigers in northern China; and wolves in North America. Next October, I will be leading a trip to South Georgia, near Antarctica.

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