Gulden eye

A por­trait of pho­tog­ra­pher David Gulden, a true na­ture lover and wor­thy suc­ces­sor to Peter Beard.

VOGUE Hommes International (English) - - CONTENTS - By jerry stafford Photographs david gulden

—Deep in the heart of the Nairobi sub­urb of Karen, named after the writer Karen Blixen, whose farm, fa­mously cel­e­brated in her novel, Out of Africa, was built on the same fer­tile land, at the end of a lush, steam­ing trail set be­tween thick flow­er­ing bushes filled with the shrill call of birds and in­sects, a con­verted garage of­fers stu­dio space and an oa­sis of calm and con­cen­tra­tion to the Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher David Gulden. His first col­lec­tion of ex­tra­or­di­nary black–and–white stud­ies of Kenyan wildlife, The Cen­tre Can­not Hold, was pub­lished last year to great ac­claim.

Gulden first trav­elled to Kenya from New York with h is fa­ther when he was fif­teen. He d id not take a cam­era with him on that first trip, but the ex­pe­ri­ence nonethe­less changed the course of his life for­ever. Wrapped now in a tra­di­tional Swahili kikoi, dark hair di­shev­elled, skin weather beaten, his eyes flicker in the half light of his stu­dio as he re­mem­bers. “The most pow­er­ful mo­ment of the trip was get­ting up from din­ner in a sa­fari tent, walk­ing a short dis­tance to the edge of a clear­ing and watch­ing a pride of lions am­ble past in the torch light. It was the most in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence of my life.” Gulden’s fa­ther was a friend of the cel­e­brated pho­tog­ra­pher, artist and ad­ven­turer Peter Beard, one of whose un­mis­tak­able blood–smeared pho­to­graphic col­lages cov­ers a wall of the Karen stu­dio. He had in­tro­duced his son to Beard just be­fore a sec­ond trip to Kenya three years later. “We had driven out to Mon­tauk on the east­ern tip of Long Is­land, in the dead of win­ter, to have lunch with a man who turned out to be the most in­ter­est­ing man I had ever met.” Gulden trav­elled then to Kenya to stay at Beard’s makeshift home, a tented en­camp­ment called Hog Ranch, which ad­joined the Blixen farm, not far from his present stu­dio in Karen. There he showed up “unan­nounced and d idn’t leave for eight years. I was an appalling house guest! It was a rus­tic, deca­dent, lib­er­at­ing place. Gi­raffe showed up ev­ery night at sun­set and we fed them by hand.”

His own in­ter­est in pho­tog­ra­phy de­vel­oped slowly and, as he ex­plains, he only took it up in earnest after sev­eral more trips to Africa. “It started with snap­shots; slowly, slowly it be­came some­thing more. It took a lot more time to learn about an­i­mals and how to ap­proach them and then how to take a photo.”

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