Change, according to Edward Lorenz, is caused by the so-called butterfly effect – a butterfly wingbeat on the other side of the world. Or, in my case, a mosquito wingbeat in Lower Sabi in the Kruger National Park. An arbitrary, minute insect landed on me 18 years ago and almost brought me to a stop. For me, change was cerebral malaria that dangled me over the edge.
But it also changed the way in which I thought about most things, and steered me in a new direction. This close encounter with the end of life resulted in the end of my engineering career and made me pursue my photography dreams.
The bug had bitten me badly; I became a professional wildlife photographer. I needed to share my images, so in 2001 I formed a publishing company with the aim of displaying my own images in books, in a way in which I wanted to show them. I believe that the creative process does not end with the release of the shutter, that the photographer has to be involved in all the aspects of creating the final product – be it a photographic print, an image for Facebook, or for a book.
I have published more than 20 photography coffee-table books, but the ones that I care most about are those not published for commercial purposes – the ones that are for myself. When working on these books, I ignore what people might think. The only judge of the images is me. I work on these books for months on end, defying all commercial logic.
The first of these was Art of Nature, which focused on the elements of art. Then came Shades of Nature, a flirtation with black-and-white photography. Most recently, I have created Reflection, my largest book yet, printed in black and white, sepia and colour. Its theme is change.
These books have been surprisingly successful. What I have learnt from them is not to judge images based on other people’s opinions: don’t judge your images with your ears, and don’t photograph with your eyes or your fingers. Use something deeper inside you than just sight, hearing and touch.
Since my malaria episode, the photography bug has bitten countless other wildlife lovers like me, also causing fevers and change. They have all changed from being passive appreciators of the wild to obsessive artists. Their blood has been infected with the urge to share what’s inside all of us. It is an urge that needs to be nurtured and protected from other people’s opinions. It is an urge that infiltrates our dreams and shapes our futures.
My advice? Don’t try to cure it.