• Meet the Author
The author and wildlife photographer has written and illustrated more than 30 books with his wife Angela, including guidebooks to East Africa and a children’s book about big cats. Sacred Nature – Life’s Eternal Dance, a 300-page coffee table book, takes t
What makes Sacred Nature different from your other work? Many of our books were about 80 000 words long, about wildlife, with pictures selected to mirror the text. This time Angie said she wanted to do a book where the pictures were big enough to really show them off, where the text didn’t influence the photos, and the photos were the story. The genesis of the book was Angie’s vision: great photography and a strong design concept.
Would you describe it as a coffee table book? I’m a bit suspicious of coffee table books to be honest – we’ve got piles at home that we never actually open. But one interviewer described our book as “a coffee table book on steroids” and another said “this is the one you go and buy a coffee table for”. My advice is this: Put the book on a stand on your coffee table and turn a page each day. Look at the picture, read the quote and start your day in a good way.
This was a family project – what role did your son David play? David designed the book. He agreed to do it on one condition: He would choose the photos. We wondered whether it would work and he duly did what editors do so well: He murdered a lot of darlings. But we trusted him. He’s very talented and he grew up in the back of a car on safari. He wanted to design a book that didn’t look like a wildlife book and I think he succeeded. He didn’t want to be led by photos illustrating animal behaviour. He wanted photos that would resonate with people.
You included various quotes in the book – how did you go about choosing them? We all love quotes – the work of philosophers, religious leaders and sages. David decided to pick quotes to mirror the thoughts the pictures evoke. There are so many photo books out there and I think the litmus test for a book like this is whether people flip through it and put it back thinking they’ve seen everything it has to offer, or if they take it home to read again and again, finding something new to appreciate every time.
You and Angela have both won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Any advice for beginner photographers? Be adventurous! And look at other genres of photography – cookery, sports, lifestyle… It will open up your imagination and you’ll learn a lot. Most importantly, know what you want to say. If you don’t have a story to tell, don’t bother taking pictures.
There’s a conservation angle to Sacred Nature… Yes, we want to use our photography to protect the thing we love, which is nature. Some of the funds raised from sales of the book will go towards conservation projects. But most of all we want to remind people that nature is sacred and something to be respected.
Favourite travel book? The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard. It was first published in 1922 and is still described by some as the greatest travel book ever written. It’s an account of his expedition to Antarctica to find emperor penguin eggs for scientific research.
Buy Sacred Nature (HPH publishing, hardcover, 29 x 37 cm) for R980 in bookstores or at www.hphpublishing.co.za